Skip to main content

Full text of "Atlantida (L'Atlantide)"

See other formats


3 1822 01255 9753 






T 




PIERRE BFNOIT 



nia 



f 



^4Hi 



LIBRARY 

UNIVERS/TY OF 
CALIFORNIA 

SAN DIEGO 



3 1822 01255 9753 






Digitized by tine Internet Arciiive 

in 2008 with funding from 

IVIicrosoft Corporation 



littp://www.arcliive.org/details/atlantidalatlantOObeno 



ATLANTIDA 



(UAtlantide) 



BY 

PIERRE BENOIT 

TRANSLATED BY 

MARY C. TONGUE 
AND MARY ROSS 




NEW YORK 

DUFFIELD AND COMPANY 

1020 



Copyright, 1920. by 
DUFFIELD AND COMPANY 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER PAGE 

Preface 3 

I A Southern Assignment 9 

II Captain de Saint-Avit 26 

III The Morhange-Saint-Avit Mission . . 43 

IV Towards Latitude 25 54 

V The Inscription 70 

VI The Disaster of the Lettuce .... 84 

VII The Country of Fear 98 

VIII Awakening At Ahaggar 113 

IX Atlantis 130 

X The Red Marble Hall 146 

XI Antinea 161 

XII Morhange Disappears 176 

XIII The Hetman of Jitomir's Story . . .192 

XIV Hours Of Waiting 212 

XV The Lament Of Tanit-Zerga .... 225 

XVI The Silver Hammer 239 

XVII The Maidens of the Rocks . . . .253 

XVIII The Fire-Flies 266 

XIX The Tanezruft 281 

XX The Circle Is Complete 296 



ATLANTIDA 



ATLANTIDA 

Hassi-Inifel, November 8, 1903. 

If the following pages are ever to see the light 
of day it will be because they have been stolen from 
me. The delay that I exact before they shall be 
disclosed assures me of that.^ 

As to this disclosure, let no one distrust my aim 
when I prepare for it, when I insist upon it. You 
may believe me when I maintain that no pride of 
authorship binds me to these pages. Already I am 
too far removed from all such things. Only it is 
useless that others should enter upon the path from 
which I shall not return. 

Four o'clock in the morning. Soon the sun will 
kindle the hamada with its pink fire. All about me 
the bordj is asleep. Through the half-open door of 

1 This letter, together with the manuscript which accom- 
panies it, the latter in a separate sealed envelope, was en- 
trusted by Lieutenant Ferrieres. of the 3rd Spahis, the day 
of the departure of that officer for the Tassili of the Tuareg 
(Central Sahara), to Sergeant Chatelain. The sergeant was 
instructed to deliver it. on his next leave, to M. Leroux, 
Honorary Counsel at the Court of Appeals at Riom, and 
Lieutenant Ferrieres' nearest relative. As this magistrate 
died suddenly before the expiration of the term of ten years 
set for the publication of the manuscript here presented, 
difficulties arose which have delayed its publication up to 
the present date. 

3 



4 ATLANTIDA 

his room I hear Andre de Saint-Avit breathing 
quietly, very quietly. 

In two days we shall start, he and I. We shall 
leave the bordj. We shall penetrate far down there 
to the South. The official orders came this morning. 

Now, even if I wished to withdraw, it is too late. 
Andre and I asked for this mission. The authoriza- 
tion that I sought, together with him, has at this 
moment become an order. The hierarchic channels 
cleared, the pressure brought to bear at the Minis- 
try; — and then to be afraid, to recoil before this 
adventure ! . . . 

To be afraid, I said. I know that I am not 
afraid ! One night in the Gurara, when I found two 
of my sentinels slaughtered, with the shameful cross 
cut of the Berbers slashed across their stomachs, — 
then I was afraid. I know what fear Is. Just so 
now, when I gazed into the black depths, whence 
suddenly all at once the great red sun will rise, I 
know that it is not with fear that I tremble. I feel 
surging within me the sacred horror of this mystery, 
and its irresistible attraction. 

Delirious dreams, perhaps. The mad imaginings 
of a brain surcharged, and an eye distraught by mir- 
ages. The day will come, doubtless, when I shall 
reread these pages with an indulgent smile, as a man 
of fifty is accustomed to smile when he rereads old 
letters. 

Delirious dreams. Mad imaginings. But these 



INTRODUCTORY LETTER 5 

dreams, these imaginings, arc dear to me. "Cap- 
tain de Saint-Avit and Lieutenant Ferricres," reads 
the official dispatch, "will proceed to Tassili to de- 
termine the statigraphic relation of Albien sand- 
stone and carboniferous limestone. They will, in 
addition, profit by any opportunities of determining 
the possible change of attitude of the Axdjers 
towards our penetration, etc." If the journey should 
indeed have to do only with such poor things I think 
that I should never undertake it. 

So I am longing for what I dread. I shall be 
dejected if I do not find myself in the presence of 
what makes me strangely fearful. 

In the depths of the valley of Wadi Mia a jackal 
is barking. Now and again, when a beam of moon- 
light breaks in a silver patch through the hollows 
of the heat-swollen clouds, making him think he sees 
the young sun, a turtle dove moans among the palm 
trees. 

I hear a step outside. I lean out of the window. A 
shade clad in luminous black stuff glides over the 
hard-packed earth of the terrace of the fortification. 
A light shines in the electric blackness. A man has 
just lighted a cigarette. He crouches, facing south- 
wards. He is smoking. 

It is Cegheir-ben-Cheikh, our Targa guide, the 
man who in three days is to lead us across the un- 
known plateaus of the mysterious Imoschaoch, across 
the hamadas of black stones, the great dried oases. 



6 ATLANTIDA 

the stretches of silver salt, the tawny hillocks, the 
flat gold dunes that are crested over, when 
the "alize" blows, with a shimmering haze of pale 
sand. 

Cegheir-ben-Cheikh ! He is the man. There re- 
curs to my mind Duveyrier's tragic phrase, "At the 
very moment the Colonel was putting his foot In the 
stirrup he was felled by a sabre blow."^ Cegheir- 
ben-Cheikh ! There he is, peacefully smoking 
his cigarette, a cigarette from the package that I gave 
him. . . . May the Lord forgive me for 
it. 

The lamp casts a yellow light on the paper. 
Strange fate, which, I never knew exactly why, de- 
cided one day when I was a lad of sixteen that I 
should prepare myself for Saint Cyr, and gave me 
there Andre de Saint-Avit as classmate. I might 
have studied law or medicine. Then I should be 
today a respectable inhabitant of a town with a 
church and running water, instead of this cotton- 
clad phantom, brooding with an unspeakable anxiety 
over this desert which is about to swallow me. 

A great insect has flown in through the window. 
It buzzes, strikes against the rough cast, rebounds 
against the globe of the lamp, and then, helpless, its 
wings singed by the still burning candle, drops on 
the white paper. 

iH. Duveyrier, "The Disaster of the Flatters Mission." Bull. 
Geol. Soc, 1881. 



INTRODUCTORY' LETTER 7 

It is an African May bug, big, black, with spots 
of livid gray. 

I think of the others, its brothers in France, the 
golden-brown May bugs, which I have seen on stormy 
summer evenings projecting themselves like little 
particles of the soil of my native countryside. It 
was there that as a child I spent my vacations, and 
later on, my leaves. On my last leave, through 
those same meadows, there wandered beside me a 
slight form, wearing a thin scarf, because of the 
evening air, so cool back there. But now this mem- 
ory stirs me so slightly that I scarcely raise my eyes 
to that dark corner of my room where the light is 
dimly reflected by the glass of an indistinct portrait. 
I realize of how little consequence has become what 
had seemed at one time capable of filling all my life. 
This plaintive mystery is of no more interest to me. 
If the strolling singers of Rolla came to murmur 
their famous nostalgic airs under the window of 
this bordj I know that I should not listen to them, 
and if they became insistent I should send them on 
their way. 

What has been capable of causing this metamor- 
phosis in me? A story, a legend, perhaps, told, at 
any rate by one on whom rests the direst of suspic- 
ions. 

Cegheir-ben-CheIkh has finished his cigarette. I 
hear him returning with slow steps to his mat, in 
barrack B, to the left of the guard post 



8 ATLANTIDA 

Our departure being scheduled for the tenth of 
November, the manuscript attached to this letter 
was begun on Sunday, the first, and finished on 
Thursday, the fifth of November, 1903. 

Olivier Ferrieres, 
Lt. 3rd Spahis. 



CHAPTER I 

A SOUTHERN ASSIGNMENT 

Sunday, the sixth of June, 1903, broke the mo- 
notony of the life that we were leading at the Post 
of Hassi-Inifel by two events of unequal importance, 

the arrival of a letter from Mile, de C , and the 

latest numbers of the Official Journal of the French 
Republic. 

"I have the Lieutenant's permission?" said Ser- 
geant Chatelain, beginning to glance through the 
magazines he had just removed from their wrap- 
pings. 

I acquiesced with a nod, already completely ab- 
sorbed in reading Mile, de C 's letter. 

"When this reaches you," was the gist of this 
charming being's letter, "mama and I will doubt- 
less have left Paris for the country. If, in your 
distant parts, it might be a consolation to Imagine 
me as bored here as you possibly can be, make the 
most of it. The Grand Prix is over, I played the 
horse you pointed out to me, and naturally, I lost. 
Last night we dined with the Martials de la Touche. 

9 



lo ATLANTIDA 

Elias Chatrlan was there, — always amazingly young. 
I am sending you his last book, which has made 
quite a sensation. It seems that the Martials de 
la Touche are depicted there without disguise. I 
will add to it Bourget's last, and Lotl's, and France's, 
and two or three of the latest music hall hits. In 
the political word, they say the law about congrega- 
tions will meet with strenuous opposition. Nothing 
much in the theatres. I have taken out a summer 
subscription for I' Illustration. Would you care for 
it? In the country no one knows what to do. Al- 
ways the same lot of idiots ready for .tennis. 
I shall deserve no credit for writing to you often. 
Spare me your reflections concerning young Combe- 
male. I am less than nothing of a feminist, having 
too much faith in those who tell me that I am pretty, 
in yourself in particular. But indeed, I grow wild 
at the idea that if I permitted myself half the fa- 
miliarities with one of our lads that you have surely 
with your Ouled-Nails . . . Enough of that, it is 
too unpleasant an idea." 

I had reached this point in the prose of this ad- 
vanced young woman when a scandalized exclama- 
tion of the Sergeant made me look up. 

"Lieutenant!" 

"Yes?" 

"They are up to something at the Ministry. See 
for yourself." 

He handed me the Official. I read: 



A SOUTHERN ASSIGNMENT 1 1 

"By a decision of the first of May, 1903, Captain 
de Saint-Avit (Andre), unattached, is assigned to 
the Third Spahis, and appointed Commandant of 
the Post of Hassi-Inifel." 

Chatelain's displeasure became fairly exuberant. 

"Captain de Saint-Avit, Commandant of the Post. 
A post which has never had a slur upon it. They 
must take us for a dumping ground." 

My surprise was as great as the Sergeant's. But 
just then I saw the evil, weasel-like face of Gourrut, 
the convict we used as clerk. He had stopped his 
scrawling and was listening with a sly interest. 

"Sergeant, Captain de Saint-Avit is my ranking 
classmate," I answered dryly. 

Chatelain saluted, and left the room. I followed. 

"There, there," I said, clapping him on the 
back, "no hard feelings. Remember that in an hour 
we are starting for the oasis. Have the cartridges 
ready. It is of the utmost importance to restock 
the larder." 

I went back to the office and motioned Gourrut 
to go. Left alone, I finished Mile, de C 's let- 
ter very quickly, and then reread the decision of the 
Ministry giving the post a new chief. 

It was now five months that I had enjoyed that 
distinction, and on my word, I had accepted the re- 
sponsibility well enough, and been very well pleased 
with the independence. I can even affirm, without 
taking too much credit for myself, that under my 



12 ATLANTIDA 

command discipline had been better maintained than 
under Captain Dieulivol, Salnt-Avlt's predecessor. 
A brave man, this Captain Dieulivol, a non-commis- 
sioned officer under Dodds and Duchesne, but sub- 
ject to a terrible propensity for strong liquors, and 
too much inclined, when he had drunk, to confuse 
his dialects, and to talk to a Houassa in Sakalave. 
No one was ever more sparing of the post vv'ater 
supply. One morning when he was preparing his 
absinthe in the presence of the Sergeant, Chatelain, 
noticing the Captain's glass, saw with amazement 
that the green liquor was blanched by a far stronger 
admixture of water than usual. He looked up, 
aware that something abnormal had just occurred. 
Rigid, the carafe inverted in his hand. Captain Dieu- 
livol was spilling the water which was running over 
on the sugar. He was dead. 

For six months, since the disappearance of this 
sympathetic old tippler, the Powers had not seemed 
to interest themselves in finding his successor. I 
had even hoped at times that a decision might be 
reached investing me with the rights that I was In 
fact exercising. . . . And today this surprising ap- 
pointment. 

Captain de Saint-Avlt. He was of my class at 
St. Cyr. I had lost track of him. Then my atten- 
tion had been attracted to him by his rapid advance- 
ment, his decoration, the well-deserved recognition 
of three particularly daring expeditions of explora- 



A SOUTHERN ASSIGNMENT 13 

tlon to TebestI and the Air; and suddenly, the mys- 
terious drama of his fourth expedition, that famous 
mission undertaken with Captain Morhange, from 
which only one of the explorers came back. Every- 
thing is forgotten quickly in France. That was at 
least six years ago. T had not heard Saint-Avit 
mentioned since. I had even supposed that he had 
left the army. And now, I was to have him as my 
chief. 

"After all, what's the difference," I mused, "he or 
another I At school he was charming, and we have 
had only the most pleasant relationships. Besides, 
I haven't enough yearly income to afford the rank of 
Captain." 

And I left the office, whistling as I went. 

We were now, Chatelain and I, our gims resting 
on the already cooling earth, beside the pool that 
forms the center of the meager oasis, hidden behind 
a kind of hedge of alfa. The setting sun was red- 
dening the stagnant ditches which irrigate the poor 
garden plots of the sedentary blacks. 

Not a word during the approach. Not a 
word during the shoot. Chatelain was obviously 
sulking. 

In silence we knocked down, one after the other, 
several of the miserable doves which came on drag- 
ging wings, heavy with the heat of the day, to 
quench their thi-rst at the thick green water. When 



14 ATLANTIDA 

a half-dozen slaughtered little bodies were lined up 
at our feet I put my hand on the Sergeant's shoulder. 

"Chatelain!" 

He trembled. 

"Chatelain, I was rude to you a little while ago. 
Don't be angry. It was the bad time before the 
siesta. The bad time of midday." 

"The Lieutenant is master here," he answered In 
a tone that was meant to be gruff, but which was 
only strained. 

"Chatelain, don't be angry. You have something 
to say to me. You know what I mean." 

"I don't know really. No, I don't know." 

"Chatelain, Chatelain, why not be sensible? Tell 
me something about Captain de Saint-Avlt." 

"I know nothing." He spoke sharply. 

"Nothing? Then what were you saying a little 
while ago?" 

"Captain de Saint-Avit Is a brave man." He 
muttered the words with his head still obstinately 
bent. "He went alone to Bilma, to the Air, quite 
alone to those places where no one had ever been. 
He is a brave man." 

"He is a brave man, undoubtedly," I answered 
with great restraint. "But he murdered his com- 
panion, Captain Morhange, did he not?" 

The old Sergeant trembled. 

"He is a brave man," he persisted. 

"Chatelain, you are a child. Are you afraid that 



A SOUTHERN ASSIGNMENT 15 

I am going to repeat what you say to your new 
Captain?" 

I had touched him to the quick. He drew him- 
self up. 

"Seigeant Chatelain is afraid of no one, Lieu- 
tenant. He has been at Abomey, against the Ama- 
zons, in a country where a black arm started out 
from every bush to seize your leg, while another cut 
it off for you with one blow of a cutlass." 

"Then what they say, what you yourself " 

"That is talk." 

"Talk which is repeated in France, Chatelain, 
everywhere." 

He bent his head still lower without replying. 

"Ass," I burst out, "will you speak?" 

"Lieutenant, Lieutenant," he fairly pled, "I swear 
that what I know, or nothing " 

"What you know you are going to tell me, and 
right away. If not, I give you my word of honor 
that, for a month, I shall not speak to you except 
on official business." 

Hassi-Inifel : thirty native Arabs and four Euro- 
peans — myself, the Sergeant, a Corporal, and Gour- 
rut. The threat was terrible. It had its effect. 

"All right, then, Lieutenant," he said with a great 
sigh. "But afterwards you must hot blame me for 
having told you things about a superior which should 
not be told and come only from the talk I overheard 
at mess." 



i6 ATLANTIDA 

"Tell away." 

"It was in 1899. I was then Mess Sergeant at 
Sfax, with the 4th Spahis. I had a good record, and 
besides, as I did not drink, the Adjutant had as- 
signed me to the officers' mess. It was a soft bertJi. 
The marketing, the accounts, recording the library 
books which were borrowed (there weren't many), 
and the key of the wine cupboard, — for with that 
you can't trust orderlies. The Colonel was young 
and dined at mess. One evening he came in late, 
looking perturbed, and, as soon as he was seated, 
called for silence : 

" 'Gentlemen,' he said, 'I have a communication 
to make to you, and I shall ask for your advice. 
Here is the question. Tomorrow morning the City 
of Naples lands at Sfax. Aboard her is Captain de 
Saint-Avit, recently assigned to Feriana, en route to 
his post' 

"The Colonel paused. 'Good,' thought I, 'tomor- 
row's menu is about to be considered.' For you 
know the custom. Lieutenant, which has existed ever 
since there have been any officers' clubs in Africa. 
When an officer is passing by, his comrades go to 
meet him at the boat and invite him to remain with 
them for the length of his stay in port. He pays 
his score in news from home. On such occasions 
everything is of the best, even for a simple lieuten- 
ant. At Sfax an officer on a visit meant — one extra 
course, vintage wine and old liqueurs. 



A SOUTHERN ASSIGNiMENT 17 

"But this time I imagined from the looks the 
officers exchanged that perhaps the old stock 
would stay undisturbed in its cupboard. 

" 'You have all, I think, heard of Captain de 
Saint-Avit, gentlemen, and the rumors about him. 
It is not for us to inquire into them, and the promo- 
tion he has had, his decoration if you will, permits 
us to hope that they are without foundation. But 
between not suspecting an officer of being a crimi- 
nal, and receiving him at our table as a comrade, 
there is a gulf that we are not obliged to 
bridge. That is the matter on which I ask your 
advice.* 

"There was silence. The officers looked at each 
other, all of them suddenly quite grave, even to the 
merriest of the second lieutenants. In the corner, 
where I realized that they had_ forgotten me, I tried 
not to make the least sound that might recall my 
presence. 

" 'We thank you. Colonel,' one of the majors 
finally replied, 'for your courtesy in consulting us. 
All my comrades, I imagine, know to what terrible 
rumors you refer. If I may venture to say so, in 
Paris at the Army Geographical Service, where I 
was before coming here, most of the officers of the 
highest standing had an opinion on this unfortunate 
matter which they avoided stating, but which cast no 
glory upon Captain de Saint-Avit.' 

" *I was at Bammako, at the time of the Mor- 



i8 ATLANTIDA 

;hange-Saint-Avit mission,' said a Captain. 'The 
opinion of the officers there, I am sorry to say, dif- 
fered very little from what the Major describes. 
But I must add that they all admitted that they 
had nothing but suspicions to go on. And sus- 
picions are certainly not enough considering the 
atrocity of the affair.' 

" 'They are quite enough, gentlemen,' replied the 
Colonel, 'to account for our hesitation. It Is not a 
question of passing judgment; but no man can 
sit at our table as a matter of right. It is a privi- 
lege based on fraternal esteem. The only question 
Is whether It Is your decision to accord It to Saint- 
Avlt' 

"So saying, he looked at the officers, as If he were 
taking a roll call. One after another they shook 
their heads. 

" 'I see that we agree,' he said. 'But our task Is 
unfortunately not yet over. The City of Naples 
will be In port tomorrow morning. The launch 
which meets the, passengers leaves at eight o'clock. 
It will be necessary, gentlemen, for one of you to 
go aboard. Captain de Saint-Avit might be expect- 
ing to come to us. We certainly have no intention 
of inflicting upon him the humiliation of refusing 
him. If he presented himself in expectation of the 
customary reception. He must be prevented from 
coming. It will be wisest to make him understand 
that it is best for him to stay aboard.' 



A SOUTHERN ASSIGNMENT 19 

"The Colonel looked at the officers again. They 
could not but agree. But how uncomfortable each 
one looked! 

" 'I cannot hope to find a volunteer among you 
for this kind of mission, so I am compelled to ap- 
point some one. Captain Grandjean, Captain de 
Saint-Avit is also a Captain. It is fitting that it 
be an officer of his own rank who carries him our 
message. Besides, you are the latest comer here. 
Therefore it is to you that I entrust this painful in- 
terview. I do not need to suggest that you conduct 
it as diplomatically as possible.' 

"Captain Grandjean bowed, while a sigh of relief 
escaped from all the others. As long as the Colonel 
stayed in the room Grandjean remained apart, with- 
out speaking. It was only after the chief had de- 
parted that he let fall the words: 

" 'There are some things that ought to count 
a good deal for promotion.' 

"The next day at luncheon everyone was impa- 
tient for his return. 

"'Well?' demanded the Colonel, briefly. 

"Captain Grandjean did not reply immediately. 
He sat down at the table where his comrades were 
mixing their drinks, and he, a man notorious for 
his sobriety, drank almost at a gulp, without 
waiting for the sugar to melt, a full glass of 
absinthe. 

" 'Well, Captain?' repeated the Colonel. 



20 ATLANTIDA 

" 'Well, Colonel, it's done. You can be at ease. 
He will not set foot on shore. But, ye gods, what 
an ordeal!' 

"The officers did not dare speak. Only their looks 
expressed their anxious curiosity. 

"Captain Grandjean poured himself a swallow of 
water. 

" 'You see, I had gotten my speech all ready, in 
the launch. But as I went up the ladder I knew 
that I had forgotten it. Saint-Avit was in the 
smoking-room, with the Captain of the boat. It 
seemed to me that I could never find the strength 
to tell him, when I saw him all ready to go ashore. 
He was in full dress uniform, his sabre lay on the 
bench and he was wearing spurs. No one wears 
spurs on shipboard. I presented myself and we 
exchanged several remarks, but I must have seemed 
somewhat strained for from the first moment I 
knew that he sensed something. Under some pre- 
text he left the Captain, and led me aft near the 
great rudder wheel. There, I dared speak. Colo- 
nel, what did I say? How I must have stammered! 
He did not look at me. Leaning his elbows on the 
railing he let his eyes wander far off, smiling slightly. 
Then, of a sudden, when I was well tangled up in 
explanations, he looked at me coolly and said: 

" ' "I must thank you, my dear fellow, for having 
given yourself so much trouble. But it is quite urF 
necessary. I am out of sorts and have no inten- 



A SOUTHERN ASSIGNMENT 21 

tion of going ashore. At least, I have the pleasure 
of hav^ing made your acquaintance. Since I cannot 
profit by your hospitality, you must do me the favor 
of accepting mine as long as the launch stays by the 
vessel." 

" 'Then we went back to the smoking-room. He 
himself mixed the cocktails. He talked to me. We 
discovered that we had mutual acquaintances. Never 
shall I forget that face, that ironic and distant look, 
that sad and melodious voice. Ah ! Colonel, gen- 
tlemen, I don't know what they may say at the Geo- 
graphic Office, or in the posts of the Soudan, . . . 
There can be nothing in it but a horrible suspicion. 
Such a man, capable of such a crime, — believe rrte, 
it is not possible.' 

"That is all. Lieutenant," finished Chatelain, af- 
ter a silence. "I have never seen a sadder meal than 
that one. The officers hurried through lunch with- 
out a word being spoken, in an atmosphere of de- 
pression against which no one tried to struggle. 
And in this complete silence, you could see them 
always furtively watching the City of Naples, where 
she was dancing merrily in the breeze, a league from 
shore. 

"She was still there in the evening when they 
assembled for dinner, and it was not until a blast 
of the whistle, followed by curls of smoke escaping 
from the red and black smokestack had announced 
the departure of the vessel for Gabes, that con- 



22 ATLANTIDA 

versatlon was resumed; and even then, less gaily 
than usual. 

"After that, Lieutenant, at the Officers' Club at 
Sfax, they avoided like the plague any subject which 
risked leading the conversation back to Captain de 
Saint-Avit." 

Chatelain had spoken almost in a whisper, and 
the little people of the desert had not heard this 
singular history. It was an hour since we had fired 
our last cartridge. Around the pool the turtle doves, 
once more reassured, were bathing their feathers. 
Mysterious great birds were flying under the dark- 
ening palm trees. A less warm wind rocked the 
trembling black palm branches. We had laid aside 
our helmets so that our temples could welcome the 
touch of the feeble breeze. 

"Chatelain," I said, "it is time to go back to the 
bordj." 

Slowly we picked up the dead doves. I felt the 
Sergeant looking at me reproachfully, as if regret- 
ting that he had spoken. Yet during all the time 
that our return trip lasted, I could not find the 
strength to break our desolate silence with a single 
word. 

The night had almost fallen when we arrived. 
The flag which surmounted the post was still visible, 
drooping on its standard, but already its colors were 
indistinguishable. To the west the sun had disap- 



A SOUTHERN ASSIGNMENT 2,3 

peared behind the dunes gashed against the black 
violet of the sky. 

When we had crossed the gate of the fortifica- 
tions, Chatelain left me. 

"I am going to the stables," he said. 

I returned alone to that part of the fort where 
the billets for the Europeans and the stores of am- 
munition were located. An inexpressible sadness 
weighed upon me. 

I thought of my comrades in French garrisons. 
At this hour they must be returning home to find 
awaiting them, spread out upon the bed, their dress 
uniform, their braided tunic, their sparkling epaul- 
ettes. 

"Tomorrow," I said to myself, "I shall request a 
change of station." 

The stairway of hard-packed earth was already 
black. But a few gleams of light still seemed 
palely prowling in the office when I entered. 

A man was sitting at my desk, bending over the 
files of orders. His back was toward me. He did 
not hear me enter. 

"Really, Gourrut, my lad, I beg you not to 
disturb yourself. Make yourself completely at 
home." 

The man had risen, and I saw him to be quite 
tall, slender and very pale. 

"Lieutenant Ferrieres, is it not?" 

He advanced, holding out his hand. 



24 ATLANTIDA 

"Captain de Saint-Avit. Delighted, my dear fel- 
low." 

At the same time Chatelain appeared on the 
threshold. 

"Sergeant," said the newcomer, "I cannot con- 
gratulate you on the little I have seen. There is not 
a camel saddle which is not in want of buckles, and 
they are rusty enough to suggest that it rains at 
Hassi-Inifel three hundred days in the year. Fur- 
thermore, where were you this afternoon? Among 
the four Frenchmen who compose the post, I found 
only on my arrival one convict, opposite a quart 
of eau-de-vie. We will change all that, I hope. At 
ease." 

"Captain," I said, and my voice was colorless, 
while Chatelain remained frozen at attention, "I 
must tell you that the Sergeant was with me, that it 
is I who am responsible for his absence from the 
post, that he is an irreproachable non-commissioned 
officer from every point of view, and that if we had 
been warned of your arrival " 

"Evidently," he said, with a coldly ironical smile. 
"Also, Lieutenant, I have no intention of holding 
him responsible for the negligences which attach to 
your office. He is not obliged to know that the 
officer who abandons a post like Hassi-Inifel, if it 
is only for two hours, risks not finding much left on 
his return. The Chaamba brigands, my dear sir, 
love firearms, and for the sake of the sixty muskets 



A SOUTHERN ASSIGNMENT 25 

in your racks, I am sure tiicy would not scruple 
to make an officer, whose otherwise excellent record 
is well known to me, account for his absence to a 
court-martial. Come with me, if you please. We 
will finish the little inspection I began too rapidly a 
little while ago." 

He was already on the stairs. I followed in his 
footsteps. Chatelain closed the order of march. I 
heard him murmuring, in a tone which you can 
imagine : 

"Well, we are in for it now !" 



CHAPTER II 



CAPTAIN DE SAINT-AVIT 



A FEW days sufficed to convince us that Chate- 
lain's fears as to our official relations with the new 
chief were vain. Often I have thought that by the 
severity he showed at our first encounter Salnt-Avit 
wished to create a formal barrier, to show us that 
he knew how to keep his head high in spite of the 
v/eight of his heavy past. Certain it is that the 
day after his arrival, he showed himself in a very 
different light, even complimenting the Sergeant on 
the upkeep of the post and the Instruction of the 
men. To me he was charming. 

"We are of the same class, aren't we?" he said 
to me. "I don't have to ask you to dispense with 
formalities, it is your right." 

Vain marks of confidence, alas ! False witnesses 
to a freedom of spirit, one in face of the other. 
What more accessible in appearance than the im- 
mense Sahara, open to all those who are willing to 
be engulfed by it? Yet what is more secret? 
After six months of companionship, of communion 

26 



CAPTAIN DK SAINT-AVTT 27 

of life such as only a Post in the South offers, 1 ask 
myself if the most extraordinary of my adventures 
is not to be leaving to-morrow, toward unsounded 
solitudes, with a man whose real thoughts are as 
unknown to me as these same solitudes, for which 
he has succeeded in making me long. 

The first surprise which was given me by this 
singular companion was occasioned by the baggage 
that followed him. 

On his inopportune arrival, alone, from Wargla, 
he had trusted to the Mehari he rode only what 
can be carried without harm by such a delicate beast, 
— his arms, sabre and revolver, a heavy carbine, and 
a very reduced pack. The rest did not arrive till 
fifteen days later, with the convoy which supplied the 
post. 

Three cases of respectable dimensions were car- 
ried one after another to the Captain's room, and 
the grimaces of the porters said enough as to their 
weight. 

I discreetly left Saint-Avit to his unpacking and 
began opening the mail which the convoy had sent 
me. 

He returned to the office a little later and glanced 
at the several reviews which I had just received. 

"So," he said. "You take these." 

He skimmed through, as he spoke, the last num- 
ber of the Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft fur Erdkiinde 
in Berlin. 



28 ATLANTIDA 

"Yes," I answered. "These gentlemen are kind 
enough to interest themselves in my works on the 
geology of the Wadi Mia and the high Igharghar." 

"That may be useful to me," he murmured, con- 
tinuing to turn over the leaves. 

"It's at your service." 

"Thanks. I am afraid I have nothing to offer 
you in exchange, except Pliny, perhaps. And still — 
you know what he said of Igharghar, according to 
King Juba. However, come help me put my traps 
in place and you will see if anything appeals to you." 

I accepted without further urging. 

We commenced by unearthing various meteoro- 
logical and astronomical instruments — the thermom- 
eters of Baudin, Salleron, Fastre, an aneroid, a For- 
tin barometer, chronometers, a sextant, an astro- 
nomical spyglass, a compass glass. ... In short, 
what Duveyrier calls the material that is simplest 
and easiest to transport on a camel. 

As Saint-Avit handed them to me I arranged 
them on the only table in the room. 

"Now," he announced to me, "there is nothing 
more but books. I will pass them to you. Pile them 
up in a corner until I can have a book-shelf made." 

For two hours altogether I helped him to heap 
up a real library. And what a library! Such as 
never before a post In the South had seen. All the 
texts consecrated, under whatever titles, by antiquity 
to the regions of the Sahara were reunited between 



CAPTAIN DE SAINT-AVIT 29 

the four rough-cast walls of that Httlc room of the 
bordj. Herodotus and Pliny, naturally, and like- 
wise Strabo and Ptolemy, Pomponius Mela, and 
Ammien Marcellin. But besides these names which 
reassured my ignorance a little, I perceived those of 
Corippus, of Paul Orose, of Eratosthenes, of Pho- 
tius, of Diodorus of Sicily, of Solon, of Dion Cas- 
sius, of Isidor of Seville, of Martin de Tyre, of 
Ethicus, of Athenee, the Scriptores Historiae Aii- 
giistae, the Itinerarium Antonini Augiisti, the Geo- 
graphi Latini Minores of Riese, the Geographi 
Graec't Minores of Karl Muller. . , . Since I have 
had the occasion to familiarize myself with Aga- 
tarchides of Cos and Artemidorus of Ephesus, 
but I admit that in this instance the presence of their 
dissertations in the saddle bags of a captain of cav- 
alry caused me some amazement. 

I mention further the Descrittione dell' Africa by 
Leon I'African, the Arabian Histories of Ibn-Khal- 
doun, of Al-Iaqoub, of El-Bekri, of Ibn-Batoutah, of 
Mahommed El-Tounsi. ... In the midst of this 
Babel, I remember the names of only two volumes 
of contemporary French scholars. There were also 
the laborious theses of Berlioux ^ and of Schirmer.* 



1 Doctrina Ptolemaei ab injuria recentiorum vindicata. sive 
Nilus Superior et Niger verus, hodiernus Eghiren, ab antiquis 
explorati. Paris, 8vo, 1874, with two maps. (Note by M. 
Leroux.) 

2 De nomine et genere popularum qui berberi vulgo dicuntur. 
Paris. 8vo. 1802. (Note by M. Leroux.) 



30 ATLANTIDA 

While I proceeded to make piles of as similar 
dimensions as possible I kept saying to myself: 

"To think that I have been believing all this time 
that in his mission with Morhange, Saint-Avit was 
particularly concerned in scientific observations. 
Either my memory deceives me strangely or he is 
riding a horse of another color. What is sure is 
that there is nothing for me in the midst of all this 
chaos." 

He must have read on my face the signs of too 
apparently expressed surprise, for he said in a tone 
in which I divined a tinge of defiance: 

"The choice of these books surprises you a bit?" 

"I can't say it surprises me," I replied, "since I 
don't know the nature of the work for which you 
have collected them. In any case I dare say, with- 
out fear of being contradicted, that never before has 
officer of the Arabian OflUce possessed a library in 
which the humanities were so well represented." 

He smiled evasively, and that day we pursued the 
subject no further. 

Among Saint-Avit's books I had noticed a volu- 
minous notebook secured by a strong lock. Several 
times I surprised him in the act of making notations 
in it. When for any reason he was called out of 
the room he placed this album carefully in a small 
cabinet of white wood, provided by the munificence 
of the Administration. When he was not writing 



CAPTAIN DK SAIXT-A\MI" v 

and the office did not require his presence, he had 
the mehari which he had brouji^ht with him saddled, 
and a few minutes later, from the terrace of the for- 
tifications, I could see the double silhouette disap- 
pearing with great strides behind a hummock, of red 
earth on the horizon. 

Each time these trips lasted longer. From each 
he returned in a kind of exaltation which made me 
watch him with daily increasing disquietude during 
meal hours, the only time we passed quite alone to- 
gether. 

"Well," I said to myself one day when his re- 
marks had been more lacking in sequence than usual, 
"it's no fun being aboard a submarine when the 
captain takes opium. What drug can this fellow be 
taking, anyway?" 

Next day I looked hurriedly through my com- 
rade's drawers. This inspection, which I believed 
to be my duty, reassured me momentarily. "All very 
good," I thought, "provided he does not carry with 
him his capsules and his Pravaz syringe." 

I was still in that stage where I could suppose 
that Andre's imagination needed artificial stimulants. 

Meticulous observation undeceived me. There 
was nothing suspicious in this respect. Moreover, 
he rarely drank and almost never smoked. 

And nevertheless, there was no means of denying 
the increase of his disquieting feverishness. He re- 
turned from his expeditions each time with his eyes 



32 ATLANTIDA 

more brilliant. He was paler, more animated, more 
irritable. 

One evening he left the post about six o'clock, at 
the end of the greatest heat of the day. We waited 
for him all night. My anxiety was all the stronger 
because quite recently caravans had brought tidings 
of bands of robbers in the neighborhood of the post. 

At dawn he had not returned. He did not come 
before midday. His camel collapsed under him, 
rather than knelt. 

He realized that he must excuse himself, but he 
waited till we were alone at lunch. 

"I am so sorry to have caused you any anxiety. 
But the dunes were so beautiful under the moon! 
I let myself be carried farther and farther. . . ." 

"I have no reproaches to make, dear fellow, you 
are free, and the chief here. Only allow me to re- 
call to you certain warnings concerning the Chaamba 
brigands, and the misfortunes that might arise 
from a Commandant of a post absenting himself 
too long." 

He smiled. 

"I don't dislike such evidence of a good mem- 
ory," he said simply. 

He was in excellent, too excellent spirits. 

"Don't blame me. I set out for a short ride as 
usual. Then, the moon rose. And then, I recog- 
nized the country. It is just where, twenty years 
ago next November, Flatters followed the way to 



CAPTAIN DE SAINT-AVIT 33 

his destiny in an exaltation which the certainty of 
not returning made keener and more intense." 

"Strange state of mind for a chief of an expe- 
dition," I murmured. 

"Say nothinjT against Flatters. Xo man ever loved 
the desert as he did . . . even to dying of it." 

"Palat and Douls, among many others, have loved 
it as much," I answered. "But they were alone 
when they exposed themselves to it. Responsible 
only for their own lives, they were free. Flatters, 
on the other hand, was responsible for sixty lives. 
xA.nd you cannot deny that he allowed his whole party 
to be massacred." 

The words were hardly out of my lips before I 
regretted them. I thought of Chatelain's story, of 
the officers' club at Sfax, where they avoided like 
the plague any kind of conversation which might lead 
their thoughts toward a certain Morhange-Saint-Avit 
mission. 

Happily I observed that my companion was not 
listening. His brilliant eyes were far away. 

"What was your first garrison?" he asked sud- 
denly. 

"Auxonne." 

He gave an unnatural laugh. 

"Auxonne. Province of the Cote d'Or. District 
of Dijon. Six thousand inhabitants. P. L. M. Rail- 
way. Drill school and review. The Colonel's wife 
receives Thursdays, and the Major's on Saturdays. 



34 ATLANTIDA 

Leaves every Sunday, — the first of the month to 
Paris, the three others to Dijon. That explains your 
judgment of Flatters. 

"For my part, my dear fellow, my first garrison 
was at Boghar. I arrived there one morning in 
October, a second lieutenant, aged twenty, of the 
First African Batallion, the white chevron on my 
black sleeve. . . . Sun stripe, as the bagnards say 
in speaking of their grades. Boghar! Two days 
before, from the bridge of the steamer, I had begun 
to see the shores of Africa. I pity all those who, 
when they see those pale cliffs for the first time, do 
not feel a great leap at their hearts, at the thought 
that this land prolongs itself thousands and thou- 
sands of leagues. ... I was little more than a 
child, I had plenty of money. I was ahead of sched- 
ule. I could have stopped three or four days at Al- 
giers to amuse myself. Instead I took the train that 
same evening for Berroughia. 

"There, scarcely a hundred kilometers from Al- 
giers, the railway stopped. Going in a straight line 
you wont find another until you get to the Cape. 
The diligence travels at night on account of the heat. 
When we came to the hills I got out and walked 
beside the carriage, straining for the sensation, in 
this new atmosphere, of the kiss of the outlying 
desert. 

"About midnight, at the Camp of the Zouaves, a 
humble post on the road embankment, overlooking 



CAPTAIN DE SAINT-AVIT 35 

a dry valley whence rose the feverish perfume of 
oleander, we changed horses. They had there a 
troop of convicts and impressed laborers, under es- 
cort of riflemen and convoys to the quarries in the 
South. In part, rogues in uniform, from the jails 
of Algiers and Douara, — without arms, of course; 
the others civilians, — such civilians! this year's re- 
cruits, the young bullies of the Chapelle and the 
Goutte-d'Or. 

"They left before we did. Then the diligence 
caught up with them. From a distance I saw in a 
pool of moonlight on the yellow road the black ir- 
regular mass of the convoy. Then I heard a weary 
dirge; the wretches were singing. One, in a sad and 
gutteral voice, gave the couplet, which trailed dis- 
mally through the depths of the blue ravines: 

" 'Ma'tntenant qii'elle est grande, 
Elle fait le trottoir, 
Avec ceux de la hande 

A Richard-Lenoir.' 

"And the others took up in chorus the horrible 
refrain : 

" 'A In Bastille, a la Bastille, 
On aiyne bien, on aime hien 

Nini Peaii d'Chien; 
Elle est si belle et si gentille 

A la Bastille' 



36 ATLANTIDA 

"I saw them all In contrast to myself when the 
diligence passed them. They were terrible. Under 
the hideous searchlight their eyes shone with a som- 
bre fire in their pale and shaven faces. The burning 
dust strangled their raucous voices in their throats. 
A frightful sadness took possession of me, 

"When the diligence had left this fearful night- 
mare behind, I regained my self-control. 

" 'Further, much further South,' I exclaimed to 
myself, 'to the places untouched by this miserable 
bilgewater of civilization.' 

"When I am weary, when I have a moment of 
anguish and longing to turn back on the road that I 
have chosen, I think of the prisoners of Berroughia, 
and then I am glad to continue on my way. 

"But what a reward, when I am in one of those 
places where the poor animals never think of fleeing 
because they have never seen man, where the desert 
stretches out around me so widely that the old world 
could crumble, and never a single ripple on the dune, 
a single cloud in the white sky come to warn me. 

" 'It I? .rue,' I murmured. 'I, too, once, in the 
middle of the desert, at Tidi-Kelt, I felt that way.' " 
Up to that time I had let him enjoy his exalta- 
tions without interruption. I understood too late 
the error that I had made in pronouncing that un- 
fortunate sentence. 

His mocking nervous laughter began anew. 
"Ah! indeed, at Tidi-Kelt? I beg you, old man, 



CAPTAIN DE SAT XT- A VI T 37 

In your own Interest, If you don't want to make an 
ass of yourself, avoid that species of reminiscence. 
Honestly, you make me think of Fromentin, or that 
poor Maupassant, who talked of the desert because 
he had been to Djelfa, two days' journey from the 
street of Bab-Azound and the Government buildings, 
four days from the Avenue de I'Opera; — and who, 
because he saw a poor devil of a camel dying near 
Bou-Saada, believed himself in the heart of the des- 
ert, on the old route of the caravans. . . . Tidl- 
Kelt, the desert!" 

"It seems to me, however, that In-Saleh " I 

said, a little vexed, 

"In-Saleh? Tidl-Kelt! But, my poor friend, the 
last time that I passed that way there were as many 
old newspapers and empty sardine boxes as if It had 
been Sunday in the Wood of VIncennes." 

Such a determined, such an evident desire to an- 
noy me made me forget my reserve. 

"Evidently," I replied resentfully, "I have never 
been to " 

I stopped myself, but it was already too late. 

He looked at me, squarely in the face. 

"To where?" he said with good humor. 

I did not answer. 

"To where?" he repeated. 

And, as I remained strangled in my muteness: 

"To Wadi Tarhit, do you mean?" 

It was on the east bank of Wadi Tarhit. a hun- 



38 ATLANTIDA 

dred and twenty kilometers from TImissao, at 25.5 
degrees north latitude, according to the official re- 
port, that Captain Morhange was buried. 

"Andre," I cried stupidly, "I swear to you " 

"What do you swear to me?" 

"That I never meant " 

"TospeakofWadiTarhit? Why? Why should 
you not speak to me of Wadi Tarhit?" 

In answer to my supplicating silence, he merely 
shrugged his shoulders, 

"Idiot," was all he said. 

And he left me before I could think of even one 
word to say. 

So much humility on my part had, however, not 
disarmed him. I had the proof of it the next day, 
and the way he showed his humor was even marked 
by an exhibition of wretchedly poor taste. 

I was just out of bed when he came into my room. 

"Can you tell me what is the meaning of this?" 
he demanded. 

He had in his hand one of the official registers. 
In his nervous crises he always began sorting them 
over, in the hope of finding some pretext for mak- 
ing himself militarily insupportable. 

This time chance had favored him.. 

He opened the register. I blushed violently at 
seeing the poor proof of a photograph that I knew 
well. 

"What is that?" he repeated disdainfully. 



CAPTAIN DK SAINT-AVIT 39 

Too often I had surprised him in the act of re- 
garding, none too kindly, the portrait of Mile, de 
C. which hung in my room not to be con\'inced at 
that moment that he was trying to pick a quarrel 
with me. 

I controlled myself, howexer, and placed the poor 
little print in the drawer. 

But my calmness did not pacify him. 

"Henceforth," he said, "take care, I beg you, not 
to mix mementoes of your gallantry with the official 
papers." 

He added, with a smile that spoke insult: 

"It isn't necessary to furnish objects of excitation 
to Gourrut." 
"Andre," I said, and I was white, "I demand " 

He stood up to the full height of his 
stature. 

"Well what is It? A gallantry, nothing more. I 
have authorized you to speak of Wadi Haifa, 
haven't I ? Then I have the right, I should 
think " 

"Andre!" 

Now he was looking maliciously at the wall, at 
the little portrait the replica of which I had just sub- 
jected to this painful scene. 

"There, there, I say, you aren't angry, are you? 
But between ourselves you will admit, will you not, 
that she is a little thin?" 

And before I could find time to answer him, he 



40 ATLANTIDA 

had removed himself, humming the shameful re- 
frain of the previous night: 

"A la Bastille, a la Bastille, 

On aime hien, on aime hien. 

Mini, Peau de Chien." 

For three days neither of us spoke to the other. 
My exasperation was too deep for words. Was I, 
then, to be held responsible for his avatars ! Was 
it my fault if, between two phrases, one seemed al- 
ways some allusion 

"The situation is intolerable," I said to myself. 
"It cannot last longer." 

It was to cease very soon. 

One week after the scene of the photograph the 
courier arrived. I had scarcely glanced at the in- 
dex of the Zeitschrift, the German review of which 
I have already spoken, when I started with uncon- 
trollable amazement. I had just read: "Reise tind 
Entdeckungen zwei franzosischer ofiziere, Ritt- 
meisters Morhange iind Oberleutnants de Saint- 
Avit, in west lichen Sahara." 

At the same time I heard my comrade's voice. 

"Anything interesting in this number?" 

"No," I answered carelessly. 

"Let's see." 

I obeyed; what else was there to do? 

It seemed to me that he grew paler as he ran 



CAPTAIN I)E SAINT-AVIT 41 

over the index. However, his tone was altogether 

natural when he said: 

"You will let me borrow it, of course?" 

And he went out, casting me one defiant glance. 

The day passed slowly. I did not see him again 
until evening. He was gay, very gay, and his gaiety 
hurt me. 

When we had finished dinner, we went out and 
leaned on the balustrade of the terrace. From there 
out swept the desert, which the darkness was already 
encroaching upon from the east. 

Andre broke the silence. 

"By the way, I have returned your review to you. 
You were right, it is not interesting." 

His expression was one of supreme amusement. 

"What is it, what is the matter with you, any- 
way?" 

"Nothing," I answered, my throat aching. 

"Nothing? Shall I tell you what is the matter 
with you?" 

I looked at him with an expression of supplica- 
tion. 

"Idiot," he found it necessary to repeat once more. 

Night fell quickly. Only the southern slope of 
Wadi Mia was still yellow. Among the boulders a 
little jackal was running about, yapping sharply. 

"The dib is making a fuss about nothing, bad 
business," said Saint-Avit. 



42 ATLANTIDA 

He continued pitilessly: 

"Then you aren't willing to say anything?" 

I made a great effort, to produce the following 
pitiful phrase: 

"What an exhausting day. What a night, heavy, 

heavy You don't feel like yourself, you don't 

know any more " 

"Yes," said the voice of Saint-Avit, as from a 
distance, "A heavy, heavy night: as heavy, do you 
know, as when I killed Captain Morhange." 



CHAPTER III 

THE MORHANGE-SAINT-AVIT MISSIONT 

"So I killed Captain Morhange," Andre de Salnt- 
Avlt said to me the next day, at the same time, In 
the same place, with a calm that took no account of 
the night, the frightful night I had just been through. 
"Why do I tell you this? I don't know in the least. 
Because of the desert, perhaps. Are you a man 
capable of enduring the weight of that confidence, 
and further, if necessary, of assuming the conse- 
quences it may bring? I don't know that, either. 
The future will decide. For the present there is 
only one thing certain, the fact, I tell you again, that 
I killed Captain Morhange. 

I killed him. And, since you want me to specify 
the reason, you understand that I am not going to 
torture my brain to turn it into a romance for you, 
or commence by recounting in the naturalistic man- 
ner of what stuff my first trousers were made, or, 
as the neo-Catholics would have it, how often I 
went as a child to confession, and how much I liked 
doing it. I have no taste for useless exhibitions. 

43 



44 ATLANTIDA 

You will find that this recital begins strictly at the 
time when I met Morhange. 

And first of all, I tell you, however much it has 
cost my peace of mind and my reputation, I do not 
regret having known him. In a word, apart from 
all question of false friendship, I am convicted of a 
black ingratitude in having killed him. It is to him, 
it is to his knowledge of rock inscriptions, that I 
owe the only thing that has raised my life in interest 
above the miserable little lives dragged out by my 
companions at Auxonne, and elsewhere. 

This being understood, here are the facts: 
It was in the Arabian Office at Wargla, when I 
was a lieutenant, that I first heard the name, Mor- 
hange. And I must add that it was for me the occa- 
sion of an attack of bad humor. We were having 
difficult times. The hostility of the Sultan of Mo- 
rocco was latent. At Touat, where the assassination 
of Flatters and of Frescaly had already been con- 
cocted, connivance was being given to the plots of 
our enemies. Touat was the center of conspiracies, 
of razzias, of defections, and at the same time, the 
depot of supply for the insatiable nomads. The 
Governors of Algeria, Tirman, Cambon, Laferriere, 
demanded its occupation. The Ministers of War 
tacitly agreed. . . . But there was Parliament, 
which did nothing at all, because of England, be- 
cause of Germany, and above all because of a cer- 
tain Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the 



THE MORHANGE-SAINT-AVIT MISSION 45 

Citizen, whicii prescribed that insurrection is the 
inost sacred of duties, even when the Insurgents are 
savages who cut your head off. In short, the mili- 
tary authority could only, at Its own discretion, In- 
crease the southern garrisons, and establish new 
posts; this one, Berresof, HassI-el-MIa, Fort Mac- 
Mahon, Fort Lallemand, Fort MIrlbel. . . . But 
as Castries puts it, you don't hold the nomads with 
bordjs, you hold them by the belt. The middle was 
the oasis of Touat. Their honors, the lawyers of 
Paris, had to be convinced of the necessity of taking 
possession of the oasis of Touat. The best way 
would be to present them with a faithful pic- 
ture of the plots that were being woven there 
against us. 

The principal authors were, and still are, the 
Senoussis, whose able chief has been forced by our 
arms to transfer the seat of his confederation sev- 
eral thousand leagues from there, to Schimmedrou, 
In the TIbestl. They had, I say they through mod- 
esty, the idea of ascertaining the traces left by these 
agitators on their favorite places of concourse; Rhat, 
Temasslnin, the plain of Adejamor, and In-Salah. 
It was, you sec, at least after leaving Temasslnin, 
practically the same itinerary as that followed in 
1864 by General Rohlfs. 

I had already attracted some attention by two ex- 
cursions, one to Agadcs, and the other to Bllma, and 
was considered by the staff officers to be one of the 



46 ATLANTIDA 

best informed on the Senoussis question. I was 
therefore selected to assume this new task. 

I then suggested that it would be of interest to 
kill two birds with one stone, and to get, in passing, 
an idea of the northern Ahoggar, so as to make 
sure whether the Tuaregs of Ahitarhen had con- 
tinued to have as cordial relations with the Senoussis 
as they had had when they combined to massacre 
the Flatters' mission. I was immediately accorded 
the permission. The change in my first plan was as 
follows: After reaching Ighelaschem, six hundred 
kilometers south of Temassinin, instead of taking the 
direct road to Touat via Rhat, I would, penetrating 
between the high land of Mouydir and Ahaggar, 
strike off to the southwest as far as Shikh-Salah. 
There I would turn again northwards, towards In- 
Salah, by the road to the Soudan and Agades. In 
all hardly eight kilometers additional in a trip of 
about seven hundred leagues, with the certainty of 
making as complete an examination as possible of 
the roads which our enemies, the Senoussis of Tibesti 
and the Tuareg of the Ahoggar, must follow to ar- 
rive at Touat. On the way, for every explorer has 
his pet fancy, I was not at all displeased to think 
that I would have a chance to examine the geological 
formation of the plateau of Egere, about which 
Duveyrier and the others are so disappointingly 
indefinite. 

Everything was ready for my departure from 



THE MORIIANGE-SAINT-AVIT MISSION 47 

Wargla. Everythlnp:, which is to say, very little. 
Three mehara : mine, my ccMiipanion Bou-Djema's 
(a faithful Chaamba, whom I had had with me in 
my wanderings through the Air, less of a guide in 
the country I was familiar with than a machine for 
saddling and unsaddling camels), then a third to 
carry provisions and skins of drinking water, very 
little, since I had taken pains to locate the stops 
with reference to the wells. 

Some people go equipped for this kind of expe- 
dition with a hundred regulars, and even cannon. I 
am for the tradition of Douls and Rene Callie, I go 
alone. 

I was at that perfect moment when only one thin 
thread still held me to the civilized world when an 
official cable arrived at Wargla. 

'^Lieutenant de Saint-Avit," it said briefly, "will 
delay his departure until the arrival of Captain Mor- 
hange, who will accompany him on his expedition 
of exploration." 

I was more than disappointed. I alone had had 
the idea of this expedition. I had had all the difti- 
culty that you can imagine to make the authorities 
agree to it. And now when I was rejoicing at the 
idea of the long hours I would spend alone with 
myself In the heart of the desert, they sent me a 
stranger, and, to make matters worse, a superior. 

The condolences of my comrades aggravated my 
bad humor. 



48 A T L A N T I D A 

The Yearly Report, consulted on the spot, had 
given them the following information : 

"Morhange (Jean-Marie-Fran^ois), class of 
1 88 1. Breveted. Captain, unassigned. (Topo- 
graphical Service of the Army.)" 

"There is the explanation for you," said one. 
''They are sending one of their creatures to pull 
the chestnuts out of the fire, after you have had all 
the trouble of making it. Breveted! That's a great 
way. The theories of Ardant du Picq or else noth- 
ing about here." 

"I don't altogether agree with you," said the 
Major. "They knew in Parliament, for some one 
is always indiscreet, the real aim of Saint-Avit's mis- 
sion: to force their hand for the occupation of 
Touat. And this Morhange must be a man serving 
the interests of the Army Commission. All these 
people, secretaries, members of Parliament, govern- 
ors, keep a close watch on each other. Some one 
will write an amusing paradoxical history some day, 
of the French Colonial Expansion, which is made 
without the knowledge of the powers in office, when 
it is not actually in spite of them." 

"Whatever the reason, the result will be the 
same," I said bitterly; "we will be two Frenchmen 
to spy on each other night and day, along the roads 
to the south. An amiable prospect when one has 
none too much time to foil all the tricks of the na- 
tives. When does he arrive?" 



THE MORHANGE-SAINT-AVIT MISSION 49 

"Day after tomorrow, probably. I ha\e news of 
a convoy coming; from Ghardaia. It is likely that 
he will avail himself of it. The indications arc 
that he doesn't know ver)' much about traveling 
alone." 

Captain Morhange did arrive in fact two days 
later by means of the convoy from Ghardaia. I 
was the first person for whom he asked. 

When he came to my room, whither I had with- 
drawn in dignity as soon as the convoy was sighted, 
I was disagreeably surprised to foresee that I would 
have great difficulty in preserving my prejudice 
against him. 

He was tall, his face full and ruddy, with laugh- 
ing blue eyes, a small black moustache, and hair that 
was already white. 

"I have a thousand apologies to make to you, my 
dear fellow," he said immediately, with a frankness 
that I have never seen in any other man. "You must 
be furious with my importunity in upsetting your 
plans and delaying your departure." 

"By no means, Captain," I replied coolly. 

"You really have only yourself to blame. It is 
on account of your knowledge of the southern routes, 
so highly esteemed at Paris, that I wished to have 
you to initiate me when the Ministries of Instruction 
and of Commerce, and the Geographical Society 
combined to charge me with the mission which brings 
me here. These three honorable institutions ha\"c 



50 ATLANTIDA 

In fact entrusted me with the attempt to re-establish 
the ancient track of the caravans, which, from the 
ninth century, traffiicked between Tunis and the Sou- 
dan, by Toweur, Wargla, Es-Souk and the bend of 
the Bourroum; and to study the possibility of 
restoring this route to its ancient splendor. At 
the same time, at the Geographic Bureau, I heard 
of the journey that you are undertaking. From 
Wargla to Shikh-Salah our two itineraries are the 
same. Only I must admit to you that it is the first 
voyage of this kind that I have ever undertaken. I 
would not be afraid to hold forth for an hour on 
Arabian literature in the amphitheatre of the School 
of Oriental Languages, but I know well enough 
that in the desert I should have to ask for directions 
whether to turn right or left. This is the only 
chance which could give me such an opportunity, 
and at the same time put me under obligation for 
this Introduction to so charming a companion. You 
must not blame me if I seized it, if I used all my 
influence to retard your departure from Wargla 
until the instant when I could join you. I have only 
one more word to add to what I have said. I am 
entrusted with a mission which by its origin is ren- 
dered essentially civilian. You are sent out by the 
Ministry of War. Up to the moment when, ar- 
rived at Shikh-Salah we turn our backs on each 
other to attain, you Touat, and I the Niger, all your 
recommendations, all your orders, will be followed 



THE MORHANGE-SAINT-AVIT MISSION 51 

by a subaltern, and, I hope, by a friend as well." 

All the time he was talking so openly I felt de- 
lightedly my worst recent fears melting away. 
Nevertheless, I still experienced a mean desire to 
show him some marks of reserve, for having thus 
disposed of my company at a distance, without con- 
sulting me. 

"I am very grateful to you, Captain, for your 
extremely flattering words. When do you wish to 
leave Wargla ?" 

He made a gesture of complete detachment. 

"Whenever you like. Tomorrow, this evening. 
I have already delayed you. Your preparations must 
have already been made for some time." 

My little maneuver had turned against myself. I 
had not been counting on leaving before the next 
week. 

"Tomorrow, Captain, but your luggage?" 

He smiled delightfully, 

"I thought it best to bring as little as possible. A 
light pack, some papers. My brave camel had no 
difficulty in bringing it along. For the rest I de- 
pend on your advice, and the resources of Owar- 
gla." 

I was well caught. I had nothing further to say. 
And moreover, such freedom of spirit and manner 
had already captivated me. 

"It seems," said my comrades, when the time for 
aperitives had brought us all together again, "that 



52 A T L A N T I D A 

this Captain of yours is a remarkably charming fel- 
low." 

"Remarkably." 

"You surely can't have any trouble with him. It 
is only up to you to see that later on he doesn't get 
all the glory." 

"We aren't working with the same end in view," 
I answered evasively. 

I was thoughtful, only thoughtful I give you my 
word. From that moment I harbored no further 
grudge against Morhange. Yet my silence per- 
suaded him that I was unforgiving. And everyone, 
do you hear me, everyone said later on, when sus- 
picions became rife: 

"He is surely guilty. We saw them go off to- 
gether. We can affirm it." 

I am guilty. . . . But for a low motive of jeal- 
ousy. . . . How sickening. . . . 

After that, there was nothing to do but to flee, 
flee, as far as the places where there are no more 
men who think and reason. 

Morhange appeared, his arm resting on the 
Major's, who was beaming over this new acquain- 
tanceship. 

He presented him enthusiastically: 

"Captain Morhange, gentlemen. An officer of 
the old school, and a man after our own hearts, I 
give you my word. He wants to leave tomorrow, 
but we must give him such a reception that he will 



THE MORHANGE-SAINT-AVIT MISSION 5.1 

forget that idea before two days arc up. Come, 
Captain, you have at least eight days to give us." 

"I am at the disposition of Lieutenant de Saint- 
Avit," replied Morhange, with a quiet smile. 

The conversation became general. The sound of 
glasses and laughter rang out. I heard my comrades 
in ecstasies over the stories that the newcomer 
poured out with ne^•er-failing humor. And T, never, 
never have I felt so sad. 

The time came to pass into the dining-room. 

"At my right, Captain," cried the Major, 
more and more beaming. "And I hope you will 
keep on giving us these new lines on Paris, We are 
not up with the times here, you know." 

"Yours to command, Major," said Morhange. 

"Be seated, gentlemen." 

The officers obeyed, with a joyous clatter of mov- 
ing chairs. I had not taken my eyes off Morhange, 
who was still standing. 

"Major, gentlemen, you will allow me," he said. 

And before sitting down at that table, where every 
moment he was the life of the party, in a low voice, 
with his eyes closed. Captain Morhange recited the 
Benedicite. 



CHAPTER IV 

TOWARDS LATITUDE 25 

"You see," said Captain Morhange to me fifteen 
days later, "you are much better informed about 
the ancient routes through the Sahara than you have 
been wilhng to let me suppose, since you know of the 
existence of the two Tadekkas. But the one of 
which you have just spoken is the Tadekka of Ibn- 
Batoutah, located by this historian seventy days 
from Touat, and placed by Schirmer, very plausibly, 
in the unexplored territo;-y of the Aouelimmlden. 
This is the Tadekka by which the Sonrahi caravans 
passed every year, travelling by Egypt. 

"My Tadekka is different, the capital of the 
veiled people, placed by Ibn-Khaldoun twenty days 
south of Wargla, which he calls Tadmekka. It is 
towards this Tadmekka that I am headed. I must 
establish Tadmekka in the i*uins of Es-Souk. The 
commercial trade route, which in the ninth century 
bound the Tunisian Djerid to the bend the Niger 
makes at Bourroum, passed by Es-Souk. It is to 
study the possibility of reestablishing this ancient 

54 



TOWARDS L A r I T U D i: 25 SS 

thoroughfare that the Ministries gave me this mis- 
sion, which has given me the pleasure of your com- 
panionship." 

"You are probably in for a disappointment," I 
said. "Everything indicates that the commerce there 
is very slight." 

"Well, I shall see," he answered composedly. 

This was while we were following the unicolored 
banks of a salt lake. The great saline stretch shone 
pale-blue, under the rising sun. The legs of our five 
mehara cast on it their moving shadows of a darker 
blue. For a moment the only inhabitant of these 
solitudes, a bird, a kind of indeterminate heron, rose 
and hung in the air, as if suspended from a 
thread, only to sink back to rest as soon as we had 
passed. 

I led the way, selecting the route, Morhange fol- 
lowed. Enveloped in a bernous, his head covered 
with the straight cJicch'w of the Spahis, a great chap- 
let of alternate red and white beads, ending in a 
cross, around his neck, he realized perfectly the ideal 
of Father Lavigerie's White Fathers. 

After a two-days' halt at Temassinin we had just 
left the road followed by Flatters, and taken an 
oblique course to the south. I have the honor of 
having antedated Fourcau in demonstrating the im- 
portance of Temassinin as a geometrical point for 
the passage of caravans, and of selecting the place 
where Captain Pein has just now constructed a fort. 



S6 ATLANTIDA 

The junction for the roads that lead to Touat from 
Fezzan and TibestI, Temassinin Is the future seat of 
a marvellous Intelligence Department. What I had 
collected there In two days about the disposition of 
our Senoussis enemies was of Importance. I noticed 
that Morhange let me proceed with my Inquiries with 
complete Indifference. 

These two days he had passed in conversation 
with the old negro guardian of the turbet, which pre- 
serves, under Its plaster dome, the remains of the 
venerated Sidi-Moussa. The confidences they ex- 
changed, I am sorry to say that I have forgotten. 
But from the negro's amazed admiration, I realized 
the- ignorance in which I stood to the mysteries of 
the desert, and how familiar they were to my com- 
panion. 

And if you want to get any idea of the extraordi- 
nary originality which Morhange introduced into 
such surroundings, you who, after all, have a certain 
familiarity with the tropics, listen to this. It was 
exactly two hundred kilometers from here, in the 
vicinity of the Great Dune, In that horrible stretch 
of six days without water. We had just enough for 
two days before reaching the next well, and you 
know these wells; as Flatters wrote to his wife, "you 
have to work for hours before you can clean them 
out and succeed In watering beasts and men." By 
chance wc met a caravan there, which was going 
east towards Rhadames, and had com.e too far north. 



TOWARDS LATITUDE 25 57 

The camels' humps, shrunken and shaking, bespoke 
the sufferings of the troop. Behind came a little 
gray ass, a pitiful burrow, interferring at every 
step, and lightened of its pack because the mer- 
chants knew that it was going to die. Instinctively, 
with its last strength, it followed, knowing that when 
it could stagger no longer, the end would come and 
the flutter of the bald vultures' wings. I love ani- 
mals, which I have solid reasons for preferring to 
men. But never should I have thought of doing 
what Morhange did then. T tell you that our water 
skins were almost dry, and that our own camels, 
without which one is lost in the empty desert, had not 
been watered for many hours. Morhange made his 
kneel, uncocked a skin, and made the little ass drink. 
I certainly felt gratification at seeing the poor bare 
flanks of the miserable beast pant with satisfaction. 
But the responsibility was mine. Also I had seen Bou- 
Djema's aghast expression, and the disapproval of 
the thirsty members of the caravan. I remarked on 
it. How it was received! "What have I given," re- 
plied Morhange, "was my own. We will reach El- 
Biodh to-morrow evening, about six o'clock. Between 
here and there I know that I shall not be thirsty." 
And that in a tone, in which for the first time he 
allowed the authority of a Captain to speak. "That 
is easy to say," I thought, ill-humoredly. "He knows 
that when he wants them, my water-skin, and Bou- 
Djema's, are at his service." But I did not yet knov.- 



58 ATLANTIDA 

Morhange very well, and it is true that until the 
evening of the next day when we reached El-Biodh, 
refusing our offers with smiling determination, he 
drank nothing. 

Shades of St. Francis of Assisi ! Umbrian hills, 
so pure under the rising sun ! It was in the light of 
a like sunrise, by the border of a pale stream leaping 
in full cascades from a crescent-shaped niche of the 
gray rocks of Egere, that Morhange stopped. The 
unlocked for waters rolled upon the sand, and we 
saw, in the light which mirrored them, little 
black fish. Fish in the middle of the Sahara ! 
All three of us were mute before this para- 
dox of Nature. One of them had strayed into a 
little channel of sand. He had to stay there, strug- 
gling in vairt, his little white belly exposed to the 
air. . . . Morhange picked him up, looked at him 
for a moment, and put him back into the little 
stream. Shades of St. Francis. Umbrian hills. . . . 
But I have sworn not to break the thread of the 
story by these untimely digressions. 

"You see," Captain Morhange said to me a week 
later, "that I was right in advising you to go farther 
south before making for Shikh-Salah. Something 
told me that this highland of Egere was not interest- 
ing from your point of view. While here you have 
only to stoop to pick up pebbles which will allow 
you to establish the volcanic origin of this region 



TOWARDS L AT ITU DP. 25 59 

much more certainly than Bou-Derba, des Cloizeaux, 
and Doctor Marres have done." 

This was while we were following the western 
pass of the Tidifest Mountains, about the 25th de- 
gree of northern latitude. 

"I should indeed be ungrateful not to thank you," 
I said. 

I shall always remember that instant. We had 
left our camels and were collecting fragments of the 
most characteristic rocks. Morhange employed him- 
self with a discernment which spoke worlds for his 
knowledge of geology, a science he had often pro- 
fessed complete ignorance of. 

Then I asked him the following question: 
"May I prove my gratitude by making you a con- 
fession?" 

He raised his head and looked at me. 
"Well then, I don't see the practical value of this 
trip you have undertaken." 
He smiled. 

"Why not? To explore the old caravan route, 
to demonstrate that a connection has existed from 
the most ancient times between the Mediterranean 
world, and the country of the Blacks, that seems 
nothing in your eyes? The hope of settling once for 
all the secular disputes which have divided so many 
keen minds; d'Anville, Heeren, Berlioux, Quatre- 
mere on the one hand, — on the other Gosselin, 
Walckenaer, Tissit, Vivien, de saint-Martin; vou 



6o ATLANTIDA 

think that that is devoid of interest? A plague upon 
you for being hard to please." 

"I spoke of practical value," I said. "You won't 
deny that this controversy is only the affair of cabi- 
net geographers and office explorers." 

Morhange kept on smiling. 

"Dear friend, don't wither me. Deign to recall 
that your mission was confided to you by the Min- 
istry of War, while I hold mine on behalf of the 
Ministry of Public Instruction. A different origin 
justifies our different aims. It certainly explains, I 
readily concede that to you, why what I am in search 
of has no practical value." 

"You are also authorized by the Ministry of Com- 
merce," I replied, playing my next card. "By this 
chief you are instructed to study the possibility of 
restoring the old trade route of the ninth century. 
But on this point don't attempt to mislead me; with 
your knowledge of the history and geography of the 
Sahara, your mind must have been made up before 
you left Paris. The road from Djerid to the Niger 
is dead, stone dead. You knew that no important 
traffic would pass by this route before you undertook 
to study the possibility of restoring it." 

Morhange looked me full in the face. 

"And if that should be so," he said with the most 
charming attitude, "if I had before leaving the con- 
viction you say, what do you conclude from that?" 

"I should prefer to have you tell me." 



TOWARDS LATITUDE 25 6i 

"Simply, my dear boy, that I had less skill than 
you in finding the pretext for my voyage, that I fur- 
nished less good reasons for the true motives that 
brought me here." 

*'A pretext? I don't see . . ." 

"Be sincere in your turn, if you please. I am sure 
that you have the greatest desire to inform the 
Arabian Office about the practices of the Senouissis. 
But admit that the information that you will obtain 
is not the sole and innermost aim of your excursion. 
You are a geologist, my friend. You have found 
a chance to gratify your taste in this trip. No one 
would think of blaming you because you have known 
how to reconcile what Is useful to your country and 
agreeable to yourself. But, for the love of God, 
don't deny it; I need no other proof than your pres- 
ence here on this side of the Tidifest, a very curi- 
ous place from a mineralogical point of view, but 
some hundred and fifty kilometers south of your 
official route." 

It was not possible to have countered me with a 
better grace. I parried by attacking. 

"Am I to conclude from all this that I do not know 
the real aims of your trip, and that they have noth- 
ing to do with the official motives?" 

I had gone a bit too far. I felt It from the seri- 
ousness with which Morhange's reply was delivered. 

"No, my dear friend, you must not conclude just 
that. I should have no taste for a lie which was 



62 ATLANTIDA 

based on fraud towards the estimable constitutional 
bodies which have judged me worthy of their con- 
fidence and their support. The ends that they have 
assigned to me I shall do my best to attain. But 
I have no reason for hiding from you that there is 
another, quite personal, which is far nearer to my 
heart. Let us say, if you will, to use a terminology 
that is otherwise deplorable, that this is the end while 
the others are the means." 

"Would there be any indiscretion? . . ." 

"None," replied my companion. "Shikh-Salah is 
only a few days distant. He whose first steps you 
have guided with such solicitude in the desert should 
have nothing hidden from you." 

We had halted in the valley of a little dry well 
where a few sickly plants were growing. A spring 
near by was circled by a crown of gray verdure. 
The camels had been unsaddled for the night, and 
were seeking vainly, at every stride, to nibble the 
spiny tufts of had. The black and polished sides of 
the Tidifest Mountains rose, almost vertically, 
above our heads. Already the blue smoke of the fire 
on which Bou-Djema was cooking dinner rose 
through the motionless air. 

Not a sound, not a breath. The smoke mounted 
straight, straight and slowly up the pale steps of the 
firmament. 

"Have you ever heard of the Atlas of Christi- 
anity?" asked Morhange. 



TOWARDS LA 7^ I T U D E 25 63 

"I think so. Isn't it a geographical work pub- 
lished by the Benedictines under the direction of a 
certain Dom Granger?" 

"Your memory is correct," said Morhange. 
"Even so let me explain a little more fully some of 
the things you have not had as much reason as I 
to interest yourself in. The /Itlas of Christianity 
proposes to establish the boundaries of that great 
tide of Christianity through all the ages, and for all 
parts of the globe. An undertaking worthy of the 
Benedictine learning, worthy of such a prodigy of 
erudition as Dom Granger himself." 

"And it is these boundaries that you have come to 
determine here, no doubt," I murmured. 

"Just so," replied my companion. 

He was silent, and I respected his silence, pre- 
pared by now to be astonished at nothing. 

"It is not possible to give confidences by halves, 
without being ridiculous," he continued after several 
minutes of meditation, speaking gravely, in a voice 
which held no suggestion of that flashing humor 
which had a month before enchanted the young offi- 
cers at Wargla. "I have begim on mine. I will 
tell you everything. Trust my discretion, however, 
and do not insist upon certain events of my private 
life. If, four years ago, at the close of these events, 
I resolved to enter a monastery, it does not concern 
you to know my reasons. I can marvel at it myself, 
that the passage in my life of a being absolutely de- 



64 ATLANTIDA 

void of interest should have sufficed to change the 
current of that Hfe. I can marvel that a creature 
whose sole merit was her beauty should have been 
permitted by the Creator to swing my destiny to such 
an unforeseen direction. The monastery at whose 
doors I knocked had the most valid reasons for 
doubting the stability of my vocation. What the 
world loses in such fashion it often calls back as 
readily. In short, I cannot blame the Father Abbot 
for having forbidden me to apply for my army dis- 
charge. By his instructions, I asked for, and ob- 
tained, permission to be placed on the inactive list 
for three years. At the end of those three years 
of consecration it would be sedn whether the world 
was definitely dead to your servant. 

"The first day of my arrival at the cloister I was 
assigned to Dom Granger, and placed by him at 
work on the Atlas of Christianity. A brief exami- 
nation decided him as to what kind of service I was 
best fitted to render. This is how I came to enter 
the studio devoted to the cartography of Northern 
Africa. I did not know one word of Arabic, but it 
happened that in garrison at Lyon I had taken at 
the Faculte des Lettres, a course with Berlioux, — a 
very erudite geographer no doubt, but obsessed by 
one idea, the influence the Greek and Roman civili- 
zations had exercised on Africa. This detail of my 
life was enough for Dom Granger. He provided me 
straightway with Berber vocabularies by Venture, 



I 



TOWARDS LATITUDE 25 65 

by Dclaportc, by Brossclard; with the Gramviat'.cal 
Sketch of the Tcmahaq by Stanley Fleeman, and 
the Essai de Grauntuiire de la langue Tcmachek 
by Major Hanotcau. At the end of three months 
I was able to decipher any inscriptions in Tifinar. 
You know that Tifinar is the national writing of the 
Tuareg, the expression of this Terachek language 
which seems to us the most curious protest 
of the Targui race against its Mohammedan 
enemies. 

"Dom Granger, in fact, believed that the Tuareg 
are Christians, dating from a period which it was 
necessary to ascertain, but which coincided no doubt 
with the splendor of the church of Hippon. Even 
better than I, you know that the cross is with them 
the symbol of fate in decoration, Duveyrier has 
claimed that it figures in their alphabet, on their 
arms, among the designs of their clothes. The only 
tattooing that they wear on the forehead, on the back 
of the hand, is a cross with four equal branches; 
the pummels of their saddles, the handles of their 
sabres, of their poignards, are cross-shaped. And 
is it necessary to remind you that, although Islam 
forbids bells as a sign of Christianity, the harness 
of Tuareg camels are trimmed with bells? 

^'Neither Dom Granger nor I attach an exagger- 
ated importance to such proofs, which resemble too 
much those which make such a display in the Genius 
of Christianity. But it is indeed impossible to refuse 



66 ATLANTIDA 

all credence to certain theological arguments. Ama- 
nai, the God of the Tuareg, unquestionably the 
Adonai of the Bible, is unique. They have a hell, 
'Timsi-tan-elekhaft,' the last fire, where reigns Iblis, 
our Lucifer. Their Paradise, where they are re- 
warded for good deeds, is inhabited by 'andjelou- 
sen,' our angels. And do not urge the resemblance 
of this theology to the Koran, for I will meet you 
with historic arguments and remind you that the 
Tuareg have struggled all through the ages at the 
cost of partial extermination, to maintain their faith 
against the encroachments of Mohammedan fanati- 
cism. 

"Many times I have studied with Dom Granger 
that formidable epoch when the aborigines opposed 
the conquering Arabs. With him I have seen how 
the army of Sidi-Okba, one of the companions of the 
Prophet, invaded this desert to reduce the Tuareg 
tribes and impose on them Musselman rules. These 
tribes were then rich and prosperous. They were 
the Ihbggaren, the Imededren, the Ouadelen, the 
Kel-Gueress, the Kel-Air. But internal quarrels 
sapped their strength. Still, it was not until after a 
long and cruel war that the Arabians succeeded in 
getting possession of the capital of the Berbers, 
which had proved such a redoubtable stronghold. 
They destroyed it after they had massacred the in- 
habitants. On the ruins Okba constructed a new 
city. This city is Es-Souk. The one that Sidi-Okba 



TOWARDS LATITUDE 2 5 67 

destroyed was the Berber Tadmekka. What Dom 
Granger asked of me was precisely that I should try 
to exhume from the ruins of the Musselman Es-Souk 
the ruins of Tadmekka, which was Berber, and per- 
haps Christian, 

"I understand," I murmured. 

"So far, so good," said Morhange. "But what 
you must grasp now is the practical sense of these re- 
ligious men, my masters. You remember that, even 
after three years of monastic life, they preserved 
their doubts as to the stability of my vocation. They 
found at the same time means of testing it once for 
all, and of adapting official facilities to their particu- 
lar purposes. One morning I was called before the 
Father Abbot, and this is what he said to me, in the 
presence of Dom Granger, who expressed silent ap- 
proval. 

" 'Your term of Inactive service expires in fifteen 
days. You will return to Paris, and apply at the 
Ministry to be reinstated. With what you have 
learned here, and the relationships we have been 
able to maintain at Headquarters, you will have no 
difficulty in being attached to the Geographical Staff 
of the army. When you reach the rue de Grenelle 
you will receive our instructions.' 

"I was astonished at their confidence in my knowl- 
edge. When I was reestablished as Captain again 
in the Geographical Service I understood. At the 
monastery, the daily association with Dom Granger 



68 ATLANTIDA 

and his pupils had kept me constantly con- 
vinced of the inferiority of my knowledge. When 
I came in contact with my military brethren I real- 
ized the superiority of the instruction I had received. 
I did not have to concern myself with the details of 
my mission. The Ministries invited me to under- 
take it. My initiative asserted itself on only one oc- 
casion. When I learned that you were going to 
leave Wargla on the present expedition, having 
reason to distrust my practical qualifications as an 
explorer, I did my best to retard your departure, 
so that I might join you. I hope that you have for- 
given me by now." 

The light in the west was fading, where the sun 
had already sunk into a matfchless luxury of violet 
draperies. We were alone in this immensity, at the 
feet of the rigid black rocks. Nothing but ourselves. 
Nothing, nothing but ourselves. 

I held out my hand to Morhange, and he pressed 
it. Then he said: 

"If they still seem infinitely long to me, the several 
thousand kilometers which separate me from the in- 
stant when, my task accomplished, I shall at last 
find oblivion in the cloister for the things for which 
I was not made, let me tell you this; — the several 
hundred kilometers which still separate us from 
Shikh-Salah seem to me infinitely short to traverse 
in your company." 



TOWARDS L A 7 I 1^ U D 1 . 2 5 69 

On the pale water of the little pool, motionless and 
fixed like a silv^er nail, a star had just been born. 

"Shikh-Salah," I murmured, my heart full of an 
indefinable sadness. "Patience, we are not there 
yet." 

In truth, we never were to be there. 



CHAPTER V 



THE INSCRIPTION 



With a blow of the tip of his cane Morhange 
knocked a fragment of rock from the black flank of 
the mountain. 

"What Is It?" he asked, holding It out to me. 

"A basaltic peridot," I said. 

"It can't be very Interesting, you barely glanced 
at it." 

"It Is very Interesting, on the contrary. But, for 
the moment, I admit that I am otherwise preoccu- 
pied." 

"How?" 

"Look this way a bit," I said, showing towards 
the west, on the horizon, a black spot across the 
white plain. 

It was six o'clock in the morning. The sun had 
risen. But it could not be found in the surprisingly 
polished air. And not a breath of air, not a breath. 
Suddc^nly one of the camels called. An enormous 
antelope had just come in sight, and had stopped in 
its flight, terrified, facing the wall of rock. It stayed 
there at a little distance from us, dazed, trembling 
on its slender legs. 

70 



THE INSCRIPTION 71 

Bou-Djema had rejoined us. 

"When the legs of the mohor tremble it is because 
the firmament is shaken," he muttered. 

"A storm?" 

*'Yes, a storm." 

"And you find that alarming?" 

I did not answer immediately. I was exchanging 
several brief words with Bou-Djema, who was oc- 
cupied in soothing the camels which were giving 
signs of being restive. 

Morhange repeated his question. I shrugged my 
shoulders. 

"Alarming? I don't know. I have never seen a 
storm on the Hoggar. But I distrust it. And the 
signs are that this is going to be a big one. See there 
already." 

A slight dust had risen before the cliff. In the 
still air a few grains of sand had begun to whirl 
round and round, with a speed which increased to 
dizziness, giving us in advance the spectacle in minia- 
ture of what would soon be breaking upon us. 

With harsh cries a flock of wild geese appeared, 
flying low. They came out of the west. 

"They are fleeing towards the Sebkha d'Amang- 
hor," said Bou-Djema. 

There could be no greater mistake, I thought. 

Morhange looked at me curiously. 

"What must we do?" he asked. 

"Mount our camels immediately, before they are 



72 ATLANTIDA 

completely demoralized, and hurry to find shelter 
In some high places. Take account of our situation. 
It is easy to follow the bed of a stream. But with- 
in a quarter of an hour perhaps the storm will 
have burst. Within a half hour a perfect torrent 
will be rushing here. On this soil, which is almost 
impermeable, rain will roll like a pail of water 
thrown on a bituminous pavement. No depth, all 
height. Look at this." 

And I showed him, a dozen meters high, long 
hollow gouges, marks of former erosians on the 
rocky wall. 

"In an hour the waters will reach that height. 
Those are the marks of the last inundation. Let us 
get started. There is not an instant to lose," 

"All right," Morhange replied tranquilly. 

We had the greatest difficulty to make the camels 
kneel. When we had thrown ourselves into the sad- 
dle they started off at a pace which their terror ren- 
dered more and more disorderly. 

Of a sudden the wind began, a formidable wind, 
and almost at the same time the light was eclipsed 
In the ravine. Above our heads the sky had become, 
in the flash of an eye, darker than the walls of the 
canyon which we were descending at a breathless 
pace. 

"A path, a stairway in the wall," I screamed 
against the wind to my companions. "If we don't 
find one In a minute we are lost." 



THE INSCRIPTION 73 

They did not hear ine, but, turning In my saddle, 
J saw that they had lost no distance, Morhange fol- 
lowing me, and Bou-Djcma In the rear driving the 
two baggage camels masterfully before him. 

A blinding streak of lightning rent the obscurity. 
A peal of thunder, re-echoed to infinity by the rocky 
wall, rang out, and immediately great tepid drops 
began to fall. In an instant, our burnouses, which 
had been blown out behind by the speed with which 
we were traveling, were stuck tight to our streaming 
bodies. 

"Saved!" I exclaimed suddenly. 

Abruptly on our right a crevice opened in the 
midst of the wall. It was the almost perpendicular 
bed of a stream, an affluent of the one we had had 
the unfortunate idea of following that morning. Al- 
ready a veritable torrent was gushing over it with 
a fine uproar. 

I have never better appreciated the incomparable 
surefootedness of camels in the most precipitate 
places. Bracing themselves, stretching out their 
great legs, balancing themselves among the rocks 
that were beginning to be swept loose, our camels 
accomplished at that moment what the mules of the 
Pyrannees might have failed in. 

After several moments of superhuman effort we 
found ourselves at last out of danger, on a kind of 
basaltic terrace, elevated some fifty meters above the 
channel of the stream we had just left. Luck was 



74 ATLANTIDA 

with us; a little grotto opened out behind. Bou- 
Djema succeeded in sheltering the camels there. 
From its threshold we had leisure to contemplate in 
silence the prodigious spectacle spread out before 
us. 

You have, I believe, been at the Camp of Chalons 
for artillery drills. You have seen when the shell 
bursts how the chalky soil of the Marne effervesces 
like the inkwells at school, when we used to throw 
a piece of calcium carbonate into them. Well, it was 
almost like that, but in the midst of the desert, in 
the midst of obscurity. The white waters rushed 
into the depths of the black hole, and rose and rose 
towards the pedestal on which we stood. And there 
was the uninterrupted noise of thunder, and still 
louder, the sound of whole walls of rock, under- » 
mined by the flood, collapsing in a heap and dissolv- 
ing in a few seconds of time iii the midst of the ris- 
ing water. 

All the time that this deluge lasted, one hour, per- 
haps two, Morhange and I stayed bending over this 
fantastic foaming vat; anxious to see, to see every- 
thing, to see in spite of everything; rejoicing with a 
kind of ineffable horror when we felt the shelf of 
basalt on which we had taken refuge swaying be- 
neath us from the battering impact of the water. I 
believe that never for an instant did we think, so 
beautiful it was, of wishing for the end of that gi- 
gantic nightmare. 



tiil: iNscinrTioN 75 

i^nally a ray of the sun shone through. Only 
then did we look at each other. 

Morhange held out his hand. 

"Thank you," he said simply. 

And he added with a smile: 

"To be drowned In the very middle of the Sahara 
would have been pretentious and ridiculous. You 
have saved us, thanks to your power of decision, 
from this ver)' paradoxical end." 

Ah, that he had been thrown by a misstep of his 
camel and rolled to his death in the midst of the 
flood! Then what followed would never have hap- 
pened. That is the thought that comes to me in 
hours of weakness. But I have told you that I pull 
myself out of it quickly. No, no, I do not 
regret it, 1 cannot regret it, that what happened did 
happen. 

Morhange left me to go into the little grotto, 
where Bou-Djema's camels were now resting com- 
fortably. I stayed alone, watching the torrent which 
was continuously rising with the impetuous inrush of 
its unbridled tributaries. It had stopped raining. 
The sun shone from a sky that had renewed its blue- 
ness. I could feel the clothes that had a moment 
before been drenching, drying upon me incredibly 
fast. 

A hand was placed on my shoulder. Morhange 
was again beside me. 



76 ATLANTIDA 

"Come here," he said. 

Somewhat surprised, I followed him. We went 
into the grotto. 

The opening, which was big enough to admit the 
camels, made it fairly light. Morhange led me up 
to the smooth face of rock opposite. "Look," he 
said, with unconcealed joy. 

"What of it?" 

"Don't you see?" 

"I see that there are several Tuareg inscriptions," 
I answered, with some disappointment. "But I 
thought I had told you that I read Tifinar writing 
A'ery badly. Are these writings more interesting 
than the others we have come upon before?" 

"Look at this one," said Morhange. There was 
such an accent of triumph in his tone that this time I 
concentrated my attention. 

I looked again. 

The characters of the inscription were arranged 
in the form of a cross. It plays such an important 
part in this adventure that I cannot forego retrac- 
ing it for you. 

I 
+ 



THE INSCRIPTION 77 

It was designed with great regularity, and the 
characters were cut deep into the rock. Although 
T knew so little of rock inscriptions at that time I 
had no difficulty in recognizing the antiquity of this 
one, 

Morhange became more and more radiant as he 
regarded it. 

I looked at him questioningly. 

"Well, what hav^e you to say now?" he asked. 

"What do you want me to say? I tell you that 
I can barely read Tifinar." 

"Shall I help you?" he suggested. 

This course in Berber writing, after the emotions 
through which we had just passed, seemed to me a 
little inopportune. But Morhange was so visibly 
delighted that I could not dash his joy. 

"Very well then," began my companion, as much 
at his ease as if he had been before a blackboard, 
"what will strike you first about this inscription is 
its repetition in the form of a cross. That is to say 
that it contains the same word twice, top to bottom, 
and right to left. The word which it composes has 
seven letters so the fourth letter, ^ , comes natur- 
ally in the middle. This arrangement which is unique 
in Tifinar writing, is already remarkable enough. 
But there is better still. Now we will read it," 

Getting it wrong three times out of seven I finally 
succeeded, with Morhange's help, in spelling the 
word. 



78 ATLAN7IDA 

"Have you got it?" asked Morhange when I had 
finished my task. 

"Less than ever," I answered, a little put out; 
"a, n, t, i, n, h, a, — Antinha, I don't know that word, 
or anything like it, in all the Saharan dialects I am 
familiar with." 

Morhange rubbed his hands together. His satis- 
faction was without bounds. 

"You have said it. That is why the discovery is 
unique." 

"Why?" 

"There is really nothing, either in Berber or in 
Arabian, analogous to this word." 

"Then?" 

"Then, my dear friend, we are in the presence of 
a foreign word, translated into Tifinar." 

"And this word belongs, according to your theory, 
to what language? 

"You must realize that the letter e does not exist 
in the Tifinar alphabet. It has here been replaced 
by the phonetic sign which is nearest to it, — h. Re- 
store e to the place which belongs to it in the word, 
and you have " 

"Antinea." 

" 'Antinea,' precisely. We find ourselves before a 
Greek vocable reproduced in Tifinar. And I think 
that now you will agree with me that my find has a 
certain interest." 

That day we had no more conferences upon 



THF INSCRIPTION 79 

texts. A loud cry, anguished, terrifying, rung out. 

We rushed out to find ;i strange spectacle await- 
ing us. 

Although the sky had cleared again, the torrent of 
yellow water was still foaming and no one could pre- 
dict when it would fall. In mid-stream, struggling 
desperately in the current, was an extraordinary 
mass, gray and soft and swaying. 

But what at the first glance overwhelmed us with 
astonishment was to see Bou-Djema, usually so calm, 
at this moment apparently beside himself with 
frenzy, bounding through the gullies and over 
the rocks of the ledge, in full pursuit of the ship- 
wreck. 

Of a sudden I seized Morhange by the arm. The 
grayish thing was alive. A pitiful long neck emerged 
from it with the heartrending cry of a beast in de- 
spair. 

"The fool," I cried, "he has let one of our beasts 
get loose, and the stream is carrying it away!" 

"You are mistaken," said Morhange. "Our 
camels are al! in the cave. The one Bou-Djema is 
running after is not ours. And the cry of anguish 
we just heard, that was not Bou-Djema either. Bou- 
Djema is a brave Chaamba who has at this 
moment only one idea, to appropriate the intes- 
tate capital represented by this camel in the 
stream." 

"Who gave that cry, then?" 



8o ATLANTIDA 

"Let us try, if you like, to explore up this stream 
that our guide is descending at such a rate." 

And without waiting for my answer he had al- 
ready set out through the recently washed gullies of 
the rocky bank. 

At that moment it can be truly said that Mor- 
hange went to meet his destiny. 

I followed him. We had the greatest difficulty in 
proceeding two or three hundred meters. Finally we 
saw at our feet a little rushing brook where the water 
was falling a trifle. 

"See there?" said Morhange. 

A blackish bundle was balancing on the waves ot 
the creek. 

When we had come up even with it we saw that 
it was a man in the long dark blue robes of the 
Tuareg. 

"Give me your hand," said Morhange, "and brace 
yourself against a rock, hard." 

He was very, very strong. In an instant, as if it 
were child's play, he had brought the body ashore. 

"He is still alive," he pronounced with satisfac- 
tion. "Now it is a question of getting him to the 
grotto. This is no place to resuscitate a drowned 
man." 

He raised the body in his powerful arms. 

"It is astonishing how little he weighs for a man 
of his height." 

By the time we had retraced the way to the grotto 



T hi: inscription Si 

the man's cotton clothes were almost dry. But the 
dye had run plentifully, and it was an indigo man 
that Morhange was trying to recall to life. 

When I had made him swallow a quart of lum 
he opened his eyes, looked at the two of us with 
surprise, then, closing them again, murmured almost 
unintelligibly a phrase, the sense of which we did 
not get until some days later: 

"Can it be that I have reached the end of my 
mission?" 

"What mission is he talking about?" I said. 

"Let him recover himself completely," responded 
Morhange. "You had better open some preserved 
food. With fellows of this build you don't have to 
observe the precautions prescribed for drowned 
Europeans." 

It was indeed a species of giant, whose life we 
had just saved. His face, although very thin, was 
regular, almost beautiful. He had a clear skin and 
little beard. His hair, already white, showed him 
to be a man of sixty years. 

When I placed a tin of corned-beef before him a 
light of voracious joy came into his eyes. The tin 
contained an allowance for four persons. It was 
empty in a flash. 

"Behold," said Morhange, "a robust appetite. 
Now we can put our questions without scruple." 

Already the Targa had placed over his forehead 
and face the blue veil prescribed by the ritual. He 



82 ATLANTIDA 

must have been completely famished not to have per- 
formed this indispensable formality sooner. There 
was nothing visible now but the eyes, watching us 
with a light that grew steadily more sombre. 

"French officers," he murmured at last. 

And he took Morhange's hand, and having placed 
it against his breast, carried it to his lips. 

Suddenly an expression of anxiety passed over his 
face. 

"And my mehari?" he asked. 

I explained that our guide was then employed in 
trying to save his beast. He in turn told us how it 
had stumbled, and fallen into tl»e current, and he 
himself, in trying to save it, had been knocked over. 
His forehead had struck a rock. He had cried out. 
After that he remembered nothing more. 

"What is your name?" I asked. 

"Eg-Anteouen." 

"What tribe do you belong to?" 

"The tribe of Kel-Tahat." 

"The Kel-Tahats are the serfs of the tribe of 
Kel-Rhela, the great nobles of Hoggar?" 

"Yes," he answered, casting a side glance in my 
direction. It seemed that such precise questions on 
the affairs of Ahygar were not to his liking. 

"The Kel-Tahats, if I am not mistaken, are es- 
tablished on the southwest flank of Atakor.^ What 



1 Another name, in the Temahaq language, for Ahaggar. 
(Note by M. Leroux.) 



THE INSCRIPTION 83 

v.'cre you doing, so far from your home territory 
when we saved your life?" 

"I was going, by way of Tit, to In-Saleh," he said. 

"What were you going to do at In-Saleh?" 

He was about to reply. But suddenly we saw him 
tremble. His eyes were fixed on a point of the cav- 
ern. We looked to see what it was. He had just 
seen the rock inscription which had so delighted 
Morhange an hour before. 

"Do you know that?" Morhange asked him witii 
keen curiosity. 

The Targa did not speak a word but his eyes had 
a strange light. 

"Do you know that?" insisted Morhange. 

And he added: 

"Antinea?" 

"Antinea," repeated the man. 

And he was silent. 

"Why don't you answer the Captain?" I called 
out, with a strange feeling of rage sweeping over 
me. 

The Targui looked at me. I thought that he was 
going to speak. But his eyes became suddenly hard. 
Under the lustrous veil I saw his features stiffening. 

Morhange and I turned around. 

On the threshold of the cavern, breathless, dis- 
comfited, harassed by an hour of vain pursuit, Bou- 
Djema had returned to us. 



CHAPTER VI 

THE DISASTER OF THE LETTUCE 

As Eg-Anteouen and Bou-Djema came face to 
face, I fancied that both the Targa and the Cham- 
baa gave a sudden start which each immediately 
repressed. It was nothing more than a fleeting im- 
pression. Nevertheless, it was enough to make me 
resolve that as soon as I was alone with our guide, 
I would question him closely concerning our new 
companion. 

The beginning of the day had been wearisome 
enough. We decided, therefore, to spend the rest 
of it there, and even to pass the night in the cave, 
waiting till the flood had completely subsided. 

In the morning, when I was marking our day's 
march upon the map, Morhange came toward me. 
I noticed that his manner was somewhat restrained. 

"In three days, we shall be at Shikh-Salah," I said 
to him. ''Perhaps by the evening of the second day, 
badly as the camels go." 

"Perhaps we shall separate before then," he mut- 
tered. 

84 



THE DISASTER OF THE LETTUCE 85 

"How so?" 

"You see, I have changed iny itinerary a little. I 
have given up the idea of going straight to Timissao. 
First I should like to make a little excursion into the 
interior of the Ahaggar range." 

I frowned: 

"What is this new idea?" 

As I spoke I looked about for Eg-Anteouen, whom 
I had seen in conversation with Morhange the pre- 
vious evening and several minutes before. He was 
quietly mending one of his sandals with a waxed 
thread supplied by Bou-Djema. He did not raise 
his head. 

"It is simply," explained Morhange, less and less 
at his ease, "that this man tells me there are similar 
inscriptions in several caverns in western Ahaggar. 
These caves are near the road that he has to take 
returning home. He must pass by Tit. Now, from 
Tit, by way of Silet, is hardly two hundred kilo- 
meters. It is a quasi-classic route ^ as short again 
as the one that I shall have to take alone, after I 
leave you, from Shikh-Salah to Timissao. That is 
in part, you see, the reason which has made me de- 
cide to . . ." 

"In part? In very small part," I replied. "But 
is your mind absolutely made up?" 

1 The route and the stages from Tit to Timissao were actuall}' 
plotted out, as early as 1888, by Captain Bissuel. Les Tuareg 
dc I'Oiicst. itineraries i and 10. (Note by Jkl. Leroux.) 



86 ATLANTIDA 

"It Is," he answered me. 

"When do you expect to leave me?" 

"To-day. The road vv^hich Eg-Anteouen proposes 
to take into Ahaggar crosses this one about four 
leagues from here. I have a favor to ask of you in 
this connection." 

"Please tell me." 

"It is to let me take one of the two baggage 
camels, since my Targa has lost his." 

"The camel which carries your baggage belongs 
to you as much as does your own mehari," I answered 
coldly. 

We stood there several minutes without speaking. 
Morhange maintained an uneasy silence; I was ex- 
amining my map. All over it in greater or less de- 
gree, but particularly towards the south, the unex- 
plored portions of Ahaggar stood out as far too 
numerous white patches in the tan area of supposed 
mountains. 

I finally said : 

"You giv^e me your word that when you have seen 
these famous grottos, you will make straight for 
Timissao by Tit and Silet?" 

He looked at me uncomprehendingly. 

"Why do you ask that?" 

"Because, if you promise me that, — provided, of 
course, that my company is not unwelcome to you — 
I will go with you. Either way, I shall have two 
hundred kilometers to go. I shall strike for Shikh- 



THE DISASTER OK THE LETTUCE 87 

Salah from the south, instead of from the west — 
that Is the only difference." 

Morhange looked at me with emotion. 

"Why do you do this?" he murmured. 

•'My dear fellow," I said (it was the first time 
that T had addressed Morhange in this familiar 
way) , "my dear fellow, I have a sense which becomes 
marvellously acute in the desert, the sense of danger. 
I gave you a slight proof of it yesterday morning, at 
the coming of the storm. With all your knowledge 
of rock inscriptions, you seem to me to have no very 
exact idea of what kind of place Ahaggar is, nor what 
may be in store for you there. On that account, T 
should be just as well pleased not to let you run 
sure risks alone." 

"I have a guide," he said with his adorable nai- 
vete. 

Eg-Anteouen, in the same squatting position, kept 
on patching his old slipper. 

I took a step toward him. 

"You heard what I said to the Captain?" 

"Yes," the Targa answered calmly. 

"I am going with him. We leave you at Tit, to 
which place you must bring us. Where is the place 
you proposed to show the Captain?" 

"I did not propose to show it to him; it was his 
own idea," said the Targa coldly. "The grottos with 
the inscriptions are three-days' march southward in 
the mountains. At first, the road is rather rough. 



88 ATLANTIDA 

But farther on, it turns, and you gain Timissao very 
easily. There are good wells where the Tuareg 
Taitoqs, who are friendly to the French, come to 
water their camels." 

"And you know the road well?" 

He shrugged his shoulders. His eyes had a scorn- 
ful smile. 

"I have taken it twenty times," he said. 

"In that case, let's get started." 

We rode for two hours. I did not exchange a 
word with Morhange. I had a clear intuition of the 
folly we were committing in risking ourselves so un- 
concernedly in that least known and most dangerous 
part of the Sahara. Every blow which had been 
struck In the last twenty years to undermine the 
French advance had come from this redoubtable 
Ahaggar. But what of it? It was of my own will 
that I had joined in this mad scheme. No need of 
going ov^er it again. What was the use of spoiling 
my action by a continual exhibition of disapproval ? 
And, furthermore, I may as well admit that I rather 
liked the turn that our trip was beginning to take. 
I had, at that instant, the sensation of journeying 
toward something Incredible, toward some tremend- 
ous adventure. You do not live with impunity for 
months and years as the guest of the desert. Sooner 
or later, it has its way with you, annihilates the good 
officer, the timid executive, overthrows his solicitude 
for his responsibilities. What is there behind those 



THE DISASTER OF THE LETTUCE 89 

mysterious rocks, those dim solitudes, which have 
held at bay the most illustrious pursuers of mys- 
tery? You follow, I tell you, you follow. 

"Are you sure at least that this inscription is In- 
teresting enough to justify us in our undertaking?" 
I asked Morhange. 

My companion started with pleasure. Ever since 
we began our journey I had realized his fear that 
I was coming along half-heartedly. As soon as I 
offered him a chance to convince me, his scruples 
vanished, and his triumph seemed assured to him. 

"Never," he answered, in a voice that he tried 
to control, but through which the enthusiasm rang 
out, "never has a Greek inscription been found so 
far south. The farthest points where they have been 
reported are in the south of Algeria and Cyrene. 
But in Ahaggar! Think of it! It is true that this 
one is translated into Tifinar. But this peculiarity 
does not diminish the interest of the coincidence: it 
increases it." 

"What do you take to be the meaning of this 
word?" 

"Antinea can only be a proper name," said Mor- 
hange. "To whom does it refer? I admit I don't 
know, and if at this very moment I am marching 
toward the south, dragging you along with me, it is 
because I count on learning more about it. Its ety- 
mology? It hasn't one definitely, but there are thirty 



90 ATLANTIDA 

possibilities. Bear in mind that the Tifinar alphabet 
is far from tallying with the Greek alphabet, which 
increases the number of hypotheses. Shall I suggest 
several?" 

"I was just about to ask you to." 

"To begin with, there is olvtl and ^/av? the 
woman who is placed opposite a vessel, an explana- 
tion which would have been pleasing to Gaffarel and 
to my venerated master Berlioux. That would apply 
well enough to the figure-heads of ships. There is 
a technical term that I cannot recall at this moment, 
not if you beat me a hundred times over.^ 

"Then there is avrivvja, that you must relate 
to avTi and va6<;, sJie who holds herself before 
the vao?, the va6<; of the temple, she who is 
opposite the sanctuary, therefore priestess. An in- 
terpretation which would enchant Girard and Renan. 

"Next we have avTivi, from avri and 
i/eos, new, which can mean two things : either she 
who is the contrary of young, which is to say old; 
or she who is the enemy of novelty or the enemy of 
youth. 

There is still another sense of Vart, in ex- 
change for, which is capable of complicating all the 
others I have mentioned; likewise there are four 
meanings for the verb vio) , which means in turn 

1 It is perhaps worth noting here that Figures de Prones 
is the exact title of a very remarkable collection of poems by 
Mme. Delarus-Mardrus, (Note by M. Leroux.) 



(Hi: DISASTFR OF THE LETTUCE 91 

to yo, to flozv, to tlircad or zvt-ave, to heap. 'Ihere 
is more still. . . . And notice, please, that I have 
not at my disposition on the otherwise commodious 
hump of this mehari, either the great dictionary of 
Estienne or the lexicons of Passow, of Pape, or of 
Liddel-Scott. This is only to show you, my dear 
friend, that epigraphy is but a reIati^'e science, al- 
ways dependent on the discovery of a new text which 
contradicts the previous findings, when it is not 
merely at the mercy of the humors of the epigraph- 
ists and their pet conceptions of the universe.^ 

"That was rather my view of it," I said. "But 
I must admit my astonishment to find that, with such 
a sceptical opinion of the goal, you still do not hesi- 
tate to take risks which may be quite considerable." 

Morhange smiled wanly. 

"I do not interpret, my friend; I collect. From 
what I will take back to him, Dom Granger has the 
ability to draw conclusions which are beyond my 
slight knowledge. I was amusing myself a little. 
Pardon me." 

Just then the girth of one of the baggage camels, 
evidently not well fastened, came loose. Part of the 
load slipped and fell to the ground. 

^ Captain Morhange seems to have forgotten in this enumera- 
tion, in places fanciful, the etymology of dvOina, a Doric dia- 
lect form of uvOivri, from av9og , a flower, and which would 
mean which is in flower. (Note by M. Leroux.) 



92 ATLANTIDA 

Eg-Anteouen descended instantly from his beast 
and helped Bou-Djema repair the damage. 

When they had finished, I made my mehari walk 
beside Bou-Djema's. 

"It will be better to resaddle the camels at the 
next stop. They will have to climb the mountain." 

The guide looked at me with amazement. Up to 
that time I had thought it unnecessary to acquaint 
him with our new projects. But I supposed Eg- 
Anteouen would have told him. 

"Lieutenant, the road across the white plain 
to Shikh-Salah is not mountainous," said the 
Chaamba. 

"We are not keeping to the road across the white 
plain. We are going south, by Ahaggar." 

"By Ahaggar," he murmured. "But . . ." 

"But what?" 

"I do not know the road." 

"Eg-Anteouen is going to guide us." 

"Eg-Anteouen!" 

I watched Bou-Djema as he made this suppressed 
ejaculation. His eyes were fixed on the Targa with 
a mixture of stupor and fright. 

Eg-Anteouen's camel was a dozen yards ahead of 
us, side by side with Morhange's. The two men 
were talking. I realized that Morhange must be 
conversing with Eg-Anteouen about the famous in- 
scriptions. But we were not so far behind that they 
could not have overheard our words. 



THE DISASTER OF THE LETTUCE 93 

Again I looked at my guide. I saw that he was 
pale. 

"What is it, Bou-D]ema?" I asked in a low voice. 

"Not here, Lieutenant, not here," he muttered. 

His teeth chattered. He added in a whisper: 

"Not here. This evening, when we stop, when he 
turns to the East to pray, when the sun goes down. 
Then, call me to you. I will tell you. . . . But not 
here. He is talking, but he is listening. Go ahead. 
Join the Captain." 

"What next?" I murmured, pressing my camel's 
neck with my foot so as to make him overtake Mor- 
hange. 

It was about five o'clock when Eg-Anteouen who 
was leading the way, came to a stop. 

"Here it is," he said, getting down from his 
camel. 

It was a beautiful and sinister place. To our 
left a fantastic wall of granite outlined its gray ribs 
against the sky. This wall was pierced, from top 
to bottom, by a winding corridor about a thousand 
feet high and scarcely wide enough in places to allow 
three camels to walk abreast. 

"Here it is," repeated the Targa. 

To the west, straight behind us, the track that we 
were leaving unrolled like a pale ribbon. The white 
plain, the road to Shikh-Salah, the established halts, 
the well-known wells. . . . And, on the other side, 



94 ; A T L A N T I D A 

this black wall against the mauve sky, this dark pas- 
sage. 

I looked at Morhange. 

*'We had better stop here," he said simply. "Eg- 
Anteouen advises us to take as much water here as 
we can carry." 

With one accord we decided to spend the night 
there, before undertaking the mountain. 

There was a spring, in a dark basin, from which 
fell a little cascade; there were a few shrubs, a fcvv 
plants. 

Already the camels were browsing at the length of 
their tethers. 

Bou-Djema arranged our camp dinner service of 
tin cups and plates on a great flat stone. An opened 
tin of meat lay beside a plate of lettuce which he had 
just gathered from the moist earth around the 
spring. I could tell from the distracted manner in 
which he placed these objects upon the rock how 
deep was his anxiety. 

As he was bending toward me to hand me a plate, 
he pointed to the gloomy black corridor which we 
were about to enter. 

"Blad-el-Khouf!" he murmured. 

"What did he say?" asked Morhange, who had 
seen the gesture. 

" Blad-el-Khouf . This is the country of fear. 
That is what the Arabs call Ahaggar." 

Bou-Djema went a little distance off and sat down, 



TlIK DISASTER OF THE LETTUCE 95 

Icaving us to our dinner. Squatting; on Ills heels, he 
began to eat a few lettuce leaves that he had kept 
for his own meal. 

Eg-Anteouen was still motionless. 

Suddenly the Targa rose. The sun in the west 
was no larger than a red brand. We saw Eg-An- 
teouen approach the fountain, spread his blue burn- 
ous on the ground and kneel upon it. 

"1 did not suppose that the Tuareg were so ob- 
servant of Mussulman tradition," said Morhange. 

"Nor I," I replied thoughtfully. 

But I had something to do at that moment besides 
making such speculations. 

"Bou-Djema," I called. 

At the same time, I looked at Eg-Anteouen. Ab- 
sorbed in his prayer, bowed toward the west, appar- 
ently he was paying no attention to me. As he pros- 
trated himself, I called again. 

"Bou-Djema, come with me to my mehari; I want 
to get something out of the saddle bags." 

Still kneeling, Eg-Anteouen v.-as mumbling his 
prayer slowly, composedly. 

But Bou-Djema had not budged. 

His only response was a deep moan. 

Morhange and I leaped to our feet and ran to the 
guide. Eg-Anteouen reached him as soon as we did. 

With his eyes closed and his limbs already cold, 
the Chaamba breathed a death rattle in Morhange's 
arms. I had seized one of his hands. Eg-Anteouen 



96 ATLANTIDA 

took the other. Each, in his own way, was trying 
to divine, to understand. . . . 

Suddenly Eg-Anteouen leapt to his feet. He had 
just seen the poor embossed bowl which the Arab 
had held an instant before between his knees, and 
which now lay overturned upon the ground. 

He picked it up, looked quickly at one after an- 
other of the leaves of lettuce remaining in it, and 
then gave a hoarse exclamation. 

"So," said Morhange, "it's his turn now; he is 
going to go mad." 

Watching Eg-Anteouen closely, I saw him hasten 
without a word to the rock where our dinner was 
set, a second later, he was again beside us, hold- 
ing out the bowl of lettuce which he had not yet 
touched. 

Then he took a thick, long, pale green leaf from 
Bou-Djema's bowl and held it beside another leaf 
he had just taken from our bowl. 

"Afahlehle," was all he said. 

I shuddered, and so did Morhange. It was the 
afahlehla, the falestez, of the Arabs of the Sahara, 
the terrible plant which had killed a part of the Flat- 
ters mission more quickly and surely than Tuareg 
arms. 

Eg-Anteouen stood up. His tall silhouette was 
outlined blackly against the sky which suddenly had 
turned pale lilac. He was watching us. 

We bent again over the unfortunate guide. 



THE DISASTER OF THE LETTUCJ-: 97 

"Afahlchlc," the Targa repeated, and shook his 
head. 



Bou-Djerna died in the middle of the night with- 
out ha\'ing regained consciousness. 



CHAPTER VII 



THE COUNTRY OF FEAR 



"It is curious," said Morhange, "to see how our 
expedition, uneventful since we left Ouargla, is now 
becoming exciting." 

He said this after kneeling for a moment in 
prayer before the painfully dug grave in which we 
had lain the guide. 

I do not believe in God. But if anything can in- 
fluence whatever powers there may be, whether of 
good or of evil, of light or of darkness, it is the 
prayer of such a man. 

For two days we picked our way through a gi- 
gantic chaos of black rock in what might have been 
the country of the moon, so barren was it. No 
sound but that of stones rolling under the feet of 
the camels and striking like gimshots at the foot of 
the precipices. 

A strange march indeed. For the first few hours, 
I tried to pick out, by compass, the route we were 
following. But my calculations were soon upset; 
doubtless a mistake due to the swaying motion of 

y8 



T H K C (.) U N T K V O I' I" J' A K 99 

the camel. I put the compass back In one of my 
saddle-bags, Froiii that time on, I'.g-Anteouen was 
our master. We could only trust ourselves to him. 

He went first; Morhange followed him, and I 
brought up the rear. We passed at every step most 
curious specimens of volcanic rock. But I did not 
examine them. I was no longer interested in such 
things. Another kind of curiosity had taken pos- 
session of me. I had come to share Morhange's 
madness. If my companion had said to me: "We 
are doing a very rash thing. Let us go back to the 
known trails," I should have replied, "You are free 
to do as you please. But I am going on.'* 

Toward evening of the second day, we found 
ourselves at the foot of a black mountain whose 
jagged ramparts towered in profile seven thousand 
feet above our heads. It was an enormous shadowy 
fortress, like the outline of a feudal stronghold sil- 
houetted with incredible sharpness against the 
orange sky. 

There was a well, with several trees, the first 
we had seen since cutting into Ahaggar. 

A group of men were standing about it. Their 
camels, tethered close by, were cropping a mouthful 
here and there. 

At seeing us, the men drew together, alert, on the 
defensive. 

Eg-Anteouen turned to us and said: 

"Eggali Tuareg." 



loo ATLANTIDA 

We went toward them. 

They were handsome men, those Eggali, the larg- 
est Tuareg whom I ever have seen. With unex- 
pected swiftness they drew aside from the well, leav- 
ing it to us. Eg-Anteouen spoke a few words to 
them. They looked at Morhange and me with a 
curiosity bordering on fear, but at any rate, with 
respect. 

I drew several little presents from my saddlebags 
and was astonished at the reserve of the chief, who 
refused them. He seemed afraid even of my 
glance. 

When they had gone, I expressed my astonish- 
ment at this shyness for which my previous experi- 
ences with the tribes of the Sahara had not pre- 
pared me. 

"They spoke with respect, even with fear,'* I said 
to Eg-Anteouen. "And yet the tribe of the Eggali 
is noble. And that of the Kel-Tahats, to which you 
tell me you belong, is a slave tribe." 

A smile lighted the dark eyes of Eg-Anteouen. 

"It is true," he said. 

"Well then?" 

"I told them that we three, the Captain, you 
and I, were bound for the Mountain of the Evil 
Spirits." 

With a gesture, he indicated the black mountain. 

"They are afraid. All the Tuareg of Ahaggar 
are afraid of the Mountain of the Evil Spirits. You 



THE COUXIRY OF FEAR loi 

saw how they were up and oft at the very mention 
of its name." 

"It is to the Mountain of the Fvil Spirits that 
you are taking us?" queried Morhangc. 

*'Yes," replied the Targa, "that is where the in- 
scriptions are that I told you about." 

"You did not mention that detail to us." 

"Why should I? The Tuareg are afraid of the 
ilhinen, spirits with horns and tails, covered with 
hair, who make the cattle sicken and die and cast 
spells over men. But I know well that the Chris- 
tians are not afraid and even laugh at the fears of 
the Tuareg." 

"And you?" I asked. "You are a Targa and you 
are not afraid of the ilhinen?" 

Eg-Anteouen showed a little red leather bag hung 
about his neck on a chain of white seeds. 

"I have my amulet," he replied gravely, "blessed 
by the venerable Sidi-Moussa himself. And then I 
am with you. You saved my life. You have de- 
sired to see the inscriptions. The will of Allah be 
done!" 

As he finished speaking, he squatted on his heels, 
drew out his long reed pipe and began to smoke 
gravely. 

"All this is beginning to seem very strange," said 
Morhange, coming over to me. 

"You can say that without exaggeration," I re- 
plied. "You remember as well as I the passage fn 



102 ATLANTIDA 

which Barth tells of his expedition to the Idinen, 
the Mountain of the Evil Spirits of the Azdjer 
Tuareg. The region had so evil a reputation that 
no Targa would go with him. But he got back." 

"Yes, he got back," replied my comrade, "but 
only after he had been lost. Without water or food, 
he came so near dying of hunger and thirst that he 
had to open a vein and drink his own blood. The 
prospect is not particularly attractive." 

I shrugged my shoulders. After all, it v.-as not my 
fault that we were there. 

Morhange understood my gesture and thought it 
necessary to make excuses. 

"I should be curious," he went on with rather 
forced gaiety, *'to meet these spirits and substantiate 
the facts of Pomponius Mela who knew them and 
locates them, in fact, in the mountain of the Tuareg. 
He calls them Egipans, Blemycns, Gamphasantes, 
Satyrs. . . . 'The Gamphasantes,' he says, 'are 
naked. The Blejnyens have no head: their faces 
are placed on their chests; the Satyrs have nothing 
like men except faces. The Egipans are made as is 
commonly described.' . . . Satyrs, Egipans . . . 
isn't it very strange to find Greek names given to 
the barbarian spirits of this region? Believe me, 
we are on a curious trail; I am sure that Antinea 
will be our key to remarkable discoveries." 

"Listen," I said, laying a finger on my lips. 

Strange sounds rose from about us as the evening 



THE COUNTRY OF FKAR 103 

advanced with great strides. A kind of crackling, 
followed by long rending shrieks, echoed and re- 
echoed to infinity in the neighboring ravines. It 
seemed to me that the whole black mountain sud- 
denly had begun to moan. 

We looked at Eg-Anteouen. He was smoking on, 
without twitching a muscle. 

"The ilhincn are waking up," he said sim- 
ply. 

Morhange listened v/ithout saying a word. 
Doubtless he understood as I did: the overheated 
rocks, the crackling of the stone, a whole series of 
physical phenomena, the example of the singing sta- 
tue of Memnon. . . . But, for all that, this unex- 
pected concert reacted no less painfully on our over- 
strained nerves. 

The last words of poor Bou-Djema came to my 
mind. 

"The country of fear," I murmured in a low 
voice. 

And Morhange repeated: 

"The country of fear." 

The strange concert ceased as the first stars ap- 
peared in the sky. With deep emotion we watched 
the tiny bluish flames appear, one after another. 
At that portentous moment they seemed to span the 
distance between us, isolated, condemned, lost, and 
our brothers of higher latitudes, who at that hour 
were rushing about their poor pleasures with de- 



104 ATLANTIDA 

lirious frenzy in cities where the whiteness of elec- 
tric lamps came on in a burst, 

Chet-Ahadh essa hethenet 
Mdteredjre d'Erredjaot, 
Mdtesekek d-Essekdot, 
Mdtelahrlahr d'Ellerhdot, 
Ettds djenen, bardd tit-enn'it ahdtet. 

Eg-Anteouen's voice raised«itself in slow guttural 
tones. It resounded with sad, grave majesty in the 
silence now complete. 

I touched the Targa's arm. With a movement 
of his head, he pointed to a constellation glittering 
in the firmament. 

"The Pleiades," I murmured to Morhange, show- 
ing him the seven pale stars, while Eg-Anteouen 
took up his mournful song in the same monotone: 

"The Daughters of the Night are seven: 
Materedjre and Erredjeaot, 
Matesekek and Essekaot, 
Matelahrlahr and Ellerhaot, 

The seventh is a boy, one of whose eyes has flown 
away." 

A sudden sickness came over me. I seized the 
Targa's arm as he was starting to intone his refrain 
for the third time. 



THF. COUNTRY OF FFAR loq 

"When will wc reach this ca\-e with the inscrip- 
tions?" I asked hrusquely. 

He looked at me and replied with his usual cahn : 

"We are there." 

"We are there? Then why don't you show it to 
us r 

"You did not ask me," he replied, not without a 
touch of insolence. 

Morhange had jumped to his feet. 

*'The cave is here?" 

"It is here," Fg-Anteouen replied slowly, rising 
to his feet. 

"Take us to it." 

"Morhange," I said, suddenly anxious, "night is 
falling. We will see nothing. And perha]:)s it is 
still some way off." 

"It is hardly fiv^e hundred paces," Fg-Anteouen re- 
plied. "The cave is full of dead underbrush. We 
will set it on fire and the Captain will see as in full 
daylight." 

"Come," my comrade repeated. 

"And the camels?" I hazarded. 

"They are tethered," said Eg-Anteouen, "and wc 
shall not be gone long." 

He had started toward the black mountain. Mor- 
hange, trembling with excitement, followed. I fol- 
lowed, too, the victim of profound uneasiness. My 
pulses throbbed. "I am not afraid," I kept re- 
peating to myself. "I swear that this is not fear." 



io6 ATLANTIDA 

And really it was not fear. Yet, what a strange 
dizziness! There was a mist over my eyes. My 
ears buzzed. Again I heard Eg-Anteouen's voice, 
but multiplied, immense, and at the same time, very 
low. 

"The Daughters of the Night are seven . . ." 

It seemed to me that the voice of the mountain, 
re-echoing, repeated that sinister last line to infinit}': 

"And the seventh is a boy, one of whose eyes has 
fiown away." 

"Here it is," said the Targa. 

A black hole in the wall opened up. Bending 
over, Eg-Anteouen entered. We followed him. 
The darkness closed around us, 

A yellow flame. Eg-Anteouen had struck his flint. 
He set fire to a pile of brush near the surface. At 
first Vv^e could see nothing. The smoke blinded us. 

Eg-Anteouen stayed at one side of the opening 
of the cave. He was seated and, more inscrutible 
than ever, had begun again to blow great puffs of 
gray smoke from his pipe. 

The burning brush cast a flickering light. I caught 
a glim.pse of Morhange. He seemed very pale. 
With both hands braced against the wall, he was 
working to decipher a mass of signs which I could 
scarcely distinguish. 



THE COUXTRY OF FEAR 107 

Nevertheless, I thought I could see his hands 
trembling. 

" The devil," I thout^ht, finding it more and more 
difficult to co-ordinate my thoughts, "he seems to 
he as unstrung as T." 

I heard him call out to Eg-Anteouen in what 
seemed to me a loud voice : 

"Stand to one side. Let the air in. What a 
smoke !" 

He kept on working at the signs. 

Suddenly I heard him again, but with difficulty. 
It seemed as if even sounds were confused in the 
smoke. 

"Antinea. ... At last \ntinea. But not 

cut in the rock . . . the marks traced in ochre . . . 
not ten years old, perhaps not five. . . . Oh! . . ." 

He pressed his hands to his head. Again he cried 
out: 

"It is a mystery. A tragic mystery." 

I laughed teasingly. 

"Come on, come on. Don't get excited over it." 

He took me by the arm and shook me. I saw his 
eyes big with terror and astonishment. 

"Are you mad?" he yelled in my face. 

"Not so loud," I replied with the same little 
Inugh. 

He looked at me again, and sank down, over- 
come, on a rock opposite me. Eg-Anteouen was still 
smoking placidly at the mouth of the cave. We 



io8 ATLANTIDA 

could see the red circle of his pipe glowing in the 
darkness. 

"Madman! Madman!" repeated Morhange. 
His voice seemed to stick in his throat. 

Suddenly he bent over the brush which was giving 
its last darts of flame, high and clear. He picked 
out a branch which had not yet caught. I saw him 
examine it carefully, then throw it back in the fire 
with a loud laugh. 

"Ha! Ha! That's good, all right!" 

He staggered toward Eg-Anteouen, pointing to 
the fire. 

"It's hemp. Hasheesh, hasheesh. Oh, that's a 
good one, all right." 

"Yes, it's a good one," I repeated, bursting into 
laughter. 

Eg-Anteouen quietly smiled approval. The dying 
fire lit his inscrutable face and flickered in his ter- 
rible dark eyes. 

A moment passed. Suddenly Morhange seized 
the Targa's arm. 

"I want to smoke, too," he said. "Give me a 
pipe." The specter gave him one. 

"What! A European pipe?" 

"A European pipe," I repeated, feeling gayer and 
gayer. 

"With an initial, *M.* As if made on purpose. 
M. . . . Captain Morhange." 

"Masson," corrected Eg-Anteouen quietly. 



THE COUxNTRY OF FEAR 109 

"Captain Masson," I repeated in concert with 
Morhange. 

We laughed again. 

"Hal Ha! Ha! Captain Masson. . . . Colo- 
nel Flatters. . . . The well of Garama. They 
killed him to take his pipe . . . that pipe. It was 
Cegheir-ben-Cheikh who killed Captain Masson." 

"It was Cegheir-ben-Cheikh," repeated the Targa 
with imperturbable calm. 

"Captain Masson and Colonel Flatters had left 
the convoy to look for the well," said Morhange, 
laughing. 

"It was then that the Tuareg attacked them," I 
finished, laughing as hard as I could. 

"A Targa of Ahaggar seized the bridle of Cap- 
tain Masson's horse," said Morhange. 

"Cegheir-ben-Cheikh had hold of Colonel Flat- 
ters' bridle," put in Eg-Anteouen. 

"The Colonel puts his foot in the stirrup and re- 
ceives a cut from Ccgheir-ben-Cheikh's saber," I 
said. 

"Captain Masson draws his revolver and hres on 
Cegheir-ben-Cheikh, shooting off three fingers of his 
left hand," said Morhange. 

"But," finished Eg-Anteouen imperturbably, "but 
Cegheir-ben-Cheikh, with one blow of his saber, 
splits Captain Masson's skull." 

He gave a silent, satisfied laugh as he spoke. The 
dying flame lit up his face. We saw the gleaming 



no ATLANTIDA 

black stem of his pipe. He held it in his left hand. 
One finger, no, two fingers only on that hand. 
Hello I I had not noticed that before, 

Morhange also noticed it, for he finished with a 
loud laugh. 

"Then, after splitting his skull, you robbed him. 
You took his pipe from him. Bravo, Cegheir-ben- 
Cheikh!'' 

Cegheir-ben-Cheikh does not reply, but I can see 
how satisfied with himself he is. He keeps on smok- 
ing. I can hardly see his features now. The fire- 
light pales, dies. I have never laughed so much as 
this evening. I am sure Morhange never has, either. 
Perhaps he will forget the cloister. And all because 
Cegheir-ben-Cheikh stole Captain Masson's pipe. . . . 

Again that accursed song. "The seventh is a boy, 
one of whose eyes has flown away." One cannot 
imagine more senseless words. It is very strange, 
really: there seem to be four of us in this cave now. 
Four, I say, five, six, seven, eight. . . . Make your- 
selves at home, my friends. What! there are no 
more of you? ... I am going to find out at last 
how the spirits of this region are made, the Gam- 
phasantes, the Blemyens. . . . Morhange says that 
the Blemye?ts have their faces on the middle of their 
chests. Surely this one who is seizing me in his arms 
is not a Blemyen! Now he is carrying me outside. 
And Morhange ... I do not want them to forget 
Morhange. . . . 



THE COUNTRY' OF FEAR 1 1 1 

They did not forget him ; I see him perched on a 
camel in front of that one to which I am fastened. 
They did well to fasten me, for otherwise I surely 
would tumble off. These spirits certainly are not 
bad fellows. But what a long way it is ! I want to 
stretch out. To sleep. A while ago we surely were 
following a long passage, then we were in the open 
air. Now we are again in an endless stifling corri- 
dor. Flere are the stars again. ... Is this ridicu- 
lous course going to keep on? . . . 

Hello, lights! Stars, perhaps. No, lights, I say. 
A stairway, on my word; of rocks, to be sure, but 
still, a stairway. How can the camels . . . ? But 
it is no longer a camel; this is a man carrying me. 
A man dressed in white, not a Gamphasante nor a 
Blemyen. Morhange must be giving himself airs 
with his historical reasoning, all false, I repeat, all 
false. Good Morhange. Provided that his Gam- 
phasante does not let him fall on this unending stair- 
way. Something glitters on the ceiling. Yes, it is a 
lamp, a copper lamp, as at Tunis, at Barbouchy's. 
Good, here again you cannot see anything. But I 
am making a fool of myself; I am lying down; now 
I can go to sleep. What a silly day I . . . Gentle- 
men, I assure you that it is unnecessary to bind me: 
I do not want to go down on the boulevards. 

Darkness again. Steps of someone going away. 
Silence. 

But only for a moment. Someone is talking beside 



112 ATLANTIDA 

me. What are they saying? . . . No, it is impos- 
sible. That metallic ring, that voice. Do you know 
what it is calling, that voice, do you know what it is 
calling in the tones of someone used to the phrase? 
Well, it is calling: 

"Play your cards, gentlemen, play your cards. 
There are ten thousand lonis in the bank. Play your 
cards, gentlemen." 

In the name of God, am I or am I not at Ahaggar? 



CHAPTER VTII 

AWAKENING AT AIIAGCJAR 

It was broad daylight when I opened my eyes. I 
thought at once of Morhange. I could not see him, 
but I heard him, close by, giving little grunts of sur- 
prise. 

I called to him. He ran to me. 

"Then they didn't tie you up?" I asked. 

"I beg your pardon. They did. But they did it 
badly; I managed to get free." 

"You might have untied me, too," I remarked 
crossly. 

"What good would it have done? I should only 
have waked you up. And I thought that your first 
word would be to call me. There, that's done." 

I reeled as I tried to stand on my feet. 

Morhange smiled. 

"We might have spent the whole night smoking 
and drinking and not been in a worse state," he said. 
"Anyhow, that Eg-Anteouen with his hasheesh is a 
fine rascal." 

"Cegheir-ben-Cheikh," I corrected. 

113 



114 ATLANTIDA 

I rubbed my hand over my forehead. 

"Where are we?" 

"My dear boy," Morhange replied, "since I awak- 
ened from the extraordinary nightmare which is 
mixed up with the smoky cave and the lamp-lit stair- 
way of the Arabian Nights, I have been going from 
surprise to surprise, from confusion to confusion. 
Just look around you." 

I rubbed my eyes and stared. Then I seized my 
friend's hand. 

"Morhange," I begged, "tell me if we are still 
dreaming." 

We were In a round room, perhaps fifty feet In 
diameter, and of about the same height, lighted 
by a great window opening on a sky of intense 
blue. 

Swallows flew back and forth, outside, giving 
quick, joyous cries. 

The floor, the incurving walls and the ceiling were 
of a kind of veined marble like porphyry, panelled 
with a strange metal, paler than gold, darker than 
silver, clouded just then by the early morning mist 
that came in through the window in great puffs. 

I staggered toward this window, drawn J3y the 
freshness of the breeze and the sunlight which was 
chasing away my dreams, and I leaned my elbows 
on the balustrade. 

I could not restrain a cry of delight. 

I was standing on a kind of balcony, cut into the 



AWAKENING AT AHAGGAR 115 

flank of a mountain, overhanging an abyss. Above 
me, blue sky; below appeared a veritable earthly 
paradise hemmed In on all sides by mountains that 
formed a continuous and Impassable wall about It. 
A garden lay spread out down there. The palm 
trees gently swayed their great fronds. At their feet 
was a tangle of the smaller trees which grow in an 
oasis under their protection: almonds, lemons, 
oranges, and many others which I could not dis- 
tinguish from that height. A broad blue stream, fed 
by a waterfall, emptied into a charming lake, the 
waters of which had the marvellous transparency 
which comes In high altitudes. Great birds flew in 
circles over this green hollow; I could see in the 
lake the red flash of a flamingo. 

The peaks of the mountains which towered on all 
sides were completely covered with snow. 

The blue stream, the green palms, the golden 
fruit, and above It all, the miraculous snow, all this 
bathed in that limpid air, gave such an impression 
of beauty, of purity, that my poor human strength 
could no longer stand the sight of It. I laid my fore- 
head on the balustrade, which, too, was covered 
with that heavenly snow, and began to cry like a 
baby. 

Morhange was behaving like another child. But 
he had awakened before I had, and doubtless had 
had time to grasp, one by one. al! these details whose 
fantastic ensemble staggered me. 



ii6 ATLANTIDA 

He laid his hand on my shoulder and gently pulled 
me back into the room. 

"You haven't seen anything yet," he said. "Look ! 
Look!" 

"Morhange!" 

"Well, old man, what do you want me to do about 
it? Look!" 

I had just realized that the strange room was fur- 
nished — God forgive me — in the European fashion. 
There were indeed, here and there, round leather 
Tuareg cushions, brightly colored blankets from 
Gafsa, rugs from Kairouan, and Caramani hangings 
which, at that moment, I should have dreaded to 
draw aside. But a \half-open panel in thd "wall 
showed a bookcase crowded with books. A whole 
row of photographs of masterpieces of ancient art 
were hung on the walls. Finally there was a table 
almost hidden under its heap of papers, pamphlets, 
books. I thought I should collapse at seeing a recent 
number of the Archaeological Review. 

I looked at Morhange. He was looking at me, 
and suddenly a mad laugh seized us and doubled us 
up for a good minute. 

"I do not know," Morhange finally managed to 
say, "whether or not we shall regret some day our 
little excursion into Ahaggar. But admit, in the 
meantime, that it promises to be rich in unexpected 
adventures. That unforgettable guide who puts us 
to sleep just to distract us from the unpleasantness of 



AWAKENING AT AHAGGAR 117 

caravan life and who lets mc experience, in the best 
of good faith, the far-famed delights of hasheesh : 
that fantastic night ride, and, to cap the climax, this 
cave of a Nureddin who must have received the edu- 
cation of the Athenian Bersot at the French Ecole 
Normale — all this is enough, on my word, to upset 
the wits of the best balanced." 

"What do I think, my poor friend? Why, just 
what you yourself think. I don't understand it at 
all, not at all. What you politely call my learning 
is not worth a cent. And why shouldn't I be all 
mixed up? This living in ca\es amazes me. Pliny 
speaks of the natives living in caves, seven days' 
march southwest of the country of the Amantes, and 
twelve days to the westward of the great Syrte. 
Herodotus says also that the Garamentes used to 
go out in their chariots to hunt the cave-dwelling 
Ethiopians. But here we are in Ahaggar, in the 
midst of the Targa country, and the best authorities 
tell us that the Tuareg never have been willing to 
live in caves. Duveyrier is precise on that point. 
And what is this, I ask you, but a cave turned into a 
workroom, with pictures of the Venus de Medici and 
the Apollo Sauroctone on the walls? I tell you that 
it is enough to drive you mad." 

And Morhange threw himself on a couch and 
began to roar with laughter again. 

"See," I said, "this is Latin." 

I had picked up several scattered papers from the 



ii8 ATLANTIDA 

work-table in the middle of the room. Morhangc 
took them from my hands and devoured them greed- 
ily. His face expressed unbounded stupefaction. 

"Stranger and stranger, my boy. Someone here 
is composing, with much citation of texts, a disser- 
tation on the Gorgon Islands: de Gorgoniim insidis. 
Medusa, according to him, was a Libyan savage who 
lived near Lake Triton, our present Chott Melhrir, 
and it is there that Perseus ... Ah !" 

Morhange's words choked in his throat. A sharp, 
shrill voice pierced the immense room. 

"Gentlemen, I beg you, let my papers alone." 

I turned toward the newcomer. 

One of the Caramani curtains was drawn aside, 
and the most unexpected of persons came in. Re- 
signed as we were to unexpected events, the improb- 
ability of this sight exceeded anything our imagina- 
tions could have devised. 

On the threshold stood a little bald-headed man 
with a pointed sallow face half hidden by an enor- 
mous pair of green spectacles and a pepper and salt 
beard. No shirt was visible, but an impressive broad 
red cravat. He wore white trousers. Red leather 
slippers furnished the only Oriental suggestion of 
his costume. 

He wore, not without pride, the rosette of an 
officer of the Department of Education. 

He collected the papers which Morhangc had 
dropped in his amazement, counted them, arranged 



AWAKENING AT AHAGGAR no 

them; then, casting a peevish glance at us, he struck 
a copper gong. 

The portiere was raised again. A huge white 
Targa entered. I seemed to recognize him as one 
of the genii of the cave,* 

"Ferradji," angrily demanded the little officer of 
the Department of Education, "why were these gen- 
tlemen brought into the library?" 

The Targa bowed respectfully. 

"Cegheir-bcn-Cheikh came back sooner than we 
expected," he replied, "and last night the embalmers 
had not yet finished. They brought them here in the 
meantime," and he pointed to us. 

"Very well, you may go," snapped the little man. 

Ferradji backed toward the door. On the 
threshold, he stopped and spoke again: 

"I was to remind you, sir, that dinner is served." 

"All right. Go along." 

And the little man seated himself at the desk and 
began to finger the papers feverishly. 

I do not know why, but a mad feeling of exasper- 
ation seized me. I walked toward him. 

"Sir," I said, "my friend and I do not know where 
we are nor who you are. We can see only that you 



1 The negro serfs among- the Tuareg are generally called 
"white Tuareg." While the nobles are clad in blue cotton robes, 
the serfs wear white robe?, hence their name of "white Tuareg." 
See, in this connection, Duveyrier : les Tuareg du Nord, page 
292. (Note by M. Leroux.) 



I20 ATLANTIDA 

are French, since you are wearing one of the highest 
honorary decorations of our country. You may have 
made the same observation on your part," I added, 
indicating the slender red ribbon which I wore on 
my vest. 

He looked at me in contemptuous surprise. 
"Well, sir?" 

"Well, sir, the negro who just went out pronounced 
the name of Cegheir-ben-Cheikh, the name of a bri- 
gand, a bandit, one of the assassins of Colonel Flat- 
ters. Are you acquainted with that detail, sir?" 

The little man surveyed me coldly and shrugged 
his shoulders. 

"Certainly. But what difference do you suppose 
that makes to me?" 

"What !" I cried, beside myself with rage. "Who 
are you. anyway?" 

"Sir," said the little old man with comical dignity, 
turning to Morhange, "I call you to witness the 
strange manners of your companion. I am here in 
my own house and I do not allow . . ." 

"You must excuse my comrade, sir," said Mor- 
hange, stepping forward. "He is not a man of 
letters, as you are. These young lieutenants are 
hot-headed, you know. And besides, you can under- 
stand why both of us are not as calm as might be 
desired." 

I was furious and on the point of disavowing these 
strangely humble words of Morhange. But a glance 



AWAKENING AT AIIAGGAR 121 

showed me that there was as mucli irony as surprise 
in his expression. 

"I know indeed that most officers arc brutes," 
grumbled die little old man. "But that is no rea- 
son . . . 

**I am only an officer myself," Morhange went on, 
in an even humbler tone, "and if ever I have been 
sensible to the intellectual inferiority of that class, I 
assure you that it was just now in glancing — I beg 
your pardon for having taken the liberty to do so — 
in glancing over the learned pages which yo'i devote 
to the passionate story of Medusa, according to 
Procles of Carthage, cited by Pausanias." 

A laughable surprise spread over the features of 
the little old man. He hastily wiped his spectacles. 

"What!" he finally cried. 

"It is indeed unfortunate, in this matter," Mor- 
hange continued imperturbably, "that we are not in 
possession of the curious dissertation devoted to this 
burning question by Statius Sebosus, a work which 
we know only through Pliny and which . . ." 

"You know Statius Sebosus?" 

"And which my master, the geographer Ber- 
lioux . . ." 

"You knew Berlioux — you were his pupil?" stam- 
mered the little man with the decoration. 

"I have had that honor," replied Morhange, very 
coldly. 

"But, but, sir, then you have heard mentioned, you 



122 ATLANTIDA 

are familiar with the question, the problem of At- 
lantis?" 

"Indeed I am not unacquainted with the works of 
Lagneau, Ploix, Arbois de Jubainville," said Mor- 
hange frigidly. 

"My God!" The little man was going through 
extraordinary contortions. "Sir — Captain, how 
happy I am, how many excuses. . . ." 

Just then, the portiere was raised. Ferradji ap- 
peared again. 

"Sir, they want me to tell you that unless you 
come, they will begin without you." 

"I am coming, I am coming. Say, Ferradji, that 
we will be there in a moment. Why, sir, if I had 
foreseen ... It is extraordinary ... to find an 
officer who knows Procles of Carthage and Arbois 
de Jubainville. Again . . . But I must introduce 
myself. I am Etienne Le Mesge, Fellow of the Uni- 
v^ersity." 

"Captain Morhange," said my companion. 
I stepped forward in my turn. 
"Lieutenant de Saint-Avit. It is a fact, sir, that I 
am very likely to confuse Arbois of Carthage with 
Procles de Jubainville. Later, I shall have to see 
about filling up those gaps. But just now, I should 
like to know where we are, if we are free, and if 
not, what occult power holds us. You have the ap- 
pearance, sir, of being sufficiently at home in this 
house to be able to enlighten us upon this point, 



AWAKENING AT AHAGGAK 123 

which I must confess, I weakly consider of the first 
importance." 

iVl. Le Mesge looked at me. A rather malevolent 
smile twitched the corners of his mouth. He opened 
his lips. . . . 

A gong sounded impatiently. 

"In good time, gentlemen, I will tell you. I will 
explain everything. . . . But now you see that we 
must hurry. It is time for lunch and our fellow din- 
ers will get tired of waiting." 

"Our fellow diners?" 

"There are two of them," M. Le Mesge ex- 
plained. "We three constitute the European per- 
sonnel of the house, that Is, the fixed personnel," he 
seemed to feel obliged to add, with his disquieting 
smile. "Two strange fellows, gentlemen, with 
whom, doubtless, you will care to have as little to do 
as possible. One is a churchman, narrow-minded, 
though a Protestant. The other Is a man of the 
world gone astray, an old fool." 

"Pardon," I said, "but It must have been he whom 
I heard last night. He was gambling: with you and 
the minister, doubtless?" 

M. Le Mesge made a gesture of offended dignity. 

"The idea ! With me, sir? It is with the Tuareg 
that he plays. He teaches them every game imag- 
inable. There, that is he who Is striking the gong 
to hurry us up. It Is half past nine, and the Salle 
de Trente et Qiiarante opens at ttn o'clock. Let us 



124 ATLANTIDA 

hurry. I suppose that anyway you will not be averse 
to a little refreshment." 

"Indeed we shall not refuse," Morhange replied. 

We followed M. Le Mesge along a long winding 
corridor with frequent steps. The passage was 
dark. But at intervals rose-colored night lights and 
incense burners were placed in niches cut into the 
solid rock. The passionate Oriental scents perfumed 
the darkness and contrasted strangely with the cold 
air of the snowy peaks. 

From time to time, a white Targa, mute and ex- 
pressionless as a phantom, would pass us and we 
would hear the clatter of his slippers die away be- 
hind us. 

M. Le Mesge stopped before a heavy door cov- 
ered with the same pale metal which I had noticed 
on the walls of the library. He opened It and stood 
aside to let us pass. 

Although the dining room which we entered had 
little in common with European dining rooms, I have 
known many which might have envied Its comfort. 
Like the library. It was lighted by a great window. 
But I noticed that It had an outside exposure, while 
that of the library overlooked the garden in the 
center of the crown of mountains. 

No center table and none of those barbaric pieces 
of furniture that we call chairs. But a great number 
of buffet tables of gilded wood, like those of Venice, 
heavy hangings of dull and subdued colors, and cush- 



AWAKENING AT AHAGGAR 125 

ions, Tuareg or Tunisian. In the center was a huge 
mat on which a feast was placed in finely woven 
baskets among silver pitchers and copper basins filled 
with perfumed water. The fight of it filled me with 
childish satisfaction. 

M. Le Mesge stepped forward and introduced 
us to the two persons who already had taken thetr 
places on the mat. 

"Mr. Spardek," he said; andby that simple phrase 
I understood how far our host placed himself above 
vain human titles. 

The Reverend Mr. Spardek, of Manchester, 
bowed reservedl/ and asked our permission to keep 
on his tall, widebrimmed hat. He was a dry, cold 
man, tall and tiin. He ate in pious sadness, enor- 
mously. 

"Monsieur Bielowsky," said M. Le Mesge, intro- 
ducing us CO the second guest. 

"Coun; Casimir Bielowsky, Hetman of Jitomir," 
the latter corrected with perfect good humor as he 
stood ip to shake hands. 

I fet at once a certain liking for the Hetman of 
Jitomi* who was a perfect example of an old beau. 
His ciocolate-coloured hair was parted in the center 
(lat-ir I found out that the Hetman dyed it with a 
corcoction of khol). He had magnificent whiskers, 
a^o chocolate-coloured, in the style of the Em- 
leror Francis Joseph. His nose was undeniably a 
little red, but so fine, so aristocratic. His hands were 



126 ATLANTIDA 

marvelous. It took some thought to place the date 
of the style of the count's costume, bottle green with 
yellow facings, ornamented with a huge seal of sil- 
ver and enamel. The recollection of a portrait of 
the Duke de Morny made me decide on i860 or 
1862; and the further chapters of this story will 
show that I was not far wrong. 

The count made me sit down beside him. One of 
his first questions was to demand if I ever cut fives.^ 
"That depends on how I feel," 1 replied. 
"Well said. I have not done so since 1866. I 
swore off. A row. The devil of a party. One day 
at Walewski's. I cut fives. Naturally I wasn't 
worrying any. The other had a fou'*. 'Idiot !' cried 
the little Baron de Chaux Gisseux who was laying 
staggering sums on my table. I huiled a bottle of 
champagne at his head. He ducked. It was Mar- 
shal Baillant who got the bottle. A scene! Tlie 
matter was fixed up because we were ooth Free 
Masons. The Emperor made me promise not to cut 
fives again. I have kept my promise. Bit there 
are moments when it is hard. . . ." 

He added in a voice steeped in melancholy 
"Try a little of this Ahaggar, 1880. Excellent 
vintage. It is I, Lieutenant, who instructed '■hese 
people in the uses of the juice of the vine. The 
vine of the palm trees is very good when it is prop- 
erly fermented, but it gets insipid in the long run!* 

1 Tirer a cinq, a card game played only for very high stakes. 



AWAKENING AT AHAGGAR 127 

It was powerful, that Ahaggar 1880. We sipped 
it from large silver goblets. It was fresh as Rhine 
wine, dry as the wine of the Hermitage. And then, 
suddenly, it brought back recollections of the burn- 
ing wines of Portugal; it seemed sweet, fruity, an 
admirable wine, I tell you. 

That wine crowned the most perfect of luncheons. 
There were few meats, to be sure; but those few were 
remarkably seasoned. Profusion of cakes, pancakes 
served with honey, fragrant fritters, cheese-cakes of 
sour milk and dates. And everywhere, in great 
enamel platters or wicker jars, fruit, masses of fruit, 
figs, dates, pistachios, jujubes, pomegranates, apri- 
cots, huge bunches of grapes, larger than those which 
bent the shoulders of the Hebrews in the land of 
Canaan, heavy watermelons cut in two, showing their 
moist, red pulp and their rows of black seeds. 

I had scarcely finished one of these beautiful 
iced fruits, when M. Le Mesge rose. 

^'Gentlemen, if you are ready," he said to Mor- 
hange and me. 

"Get away from that old dotard as soon as you 
can," whispered the Hetman of Jitomir to me. 
"The party of Trente et Ouarantc will begin soon. 
You shall see. You shall see. We go It even harder 
than at Cora Pearl's." 

"Gentlemen," repeated M. Lc Me«gc in his dry 
tone. 



128 ATLANTIDA 

We followed him. When the three of us were 
back again in the library, he said, addressing mc : 

"You, sir, asked a little while ago what occult 
power holds you here. Your manner was threaten- 
ing, and I should have refused to comply had it not 
been for your friend, whose knowledge enables him 
to appreciate better than you the value of the reve- 
lations I am about to make to you." 

He touched a spring in the side of the wall. A 
cupboard appeared, stuffed with books. He took 
one. 

"You are both of you," continued M. Le Mesge, 
"in the power of a woman. This woman, the sultan- 
ess, the queen, the absolute sovereign of Ahaggar, 
is called Antinea. Don't start, M. Morhange, you 
will soon understand." 

He opened the book and read this sentence : 

" 'I must warn you before I take up the subject 
matter: do not be surprised to hear me call the bar- 
barians by Greek names.' 

'What is that book?" stammered Morhange, 
whose pallor terrified me. 

"This book," M. Le Mesge replied very slowly, 
weighing his words, with an extraordinary expres- 
sion of triumph, "is the greatest, the most beautiful, 
the most secret, of the dialogues of Plato; it is the 
Critias of Atlantis." 

"The Critias? But it is unfinished," murmured 
Morhange. 



AWAKENING AT AHAGGAR 129 

"It is unlinishcd in I-rance, in Europe, evcryv.'hcrc 
else," said M. Le Mesge, ''but it Is finished here. 
Look for yourself at this copy." 

"But what connection," repeated Morhangc, while 
his eyes traveled avidly over the pages, "what con- 
nection can there be between this dialogue, complete, 
— yes, it seems to me complete — what connection 
with this woman, Antinea? Why should it be in her 
possession?" 

"Because," replied the little man imperturbably, 
"this book is her patent of nobility, her Ahnanach 
de Gotha, in a sense, do you understand? Because 
it established her prodigious genealogy: because she 
is . . ." 

"Because she is?" repeated Morhange. 

"Because she is the grand daughter of Neptune, 
the last descendant of the Atlantides." 



CHAPTER IX 



ATLANTIS 



M. Le Mesge looked at Morhange triumphantly. 
It was evident that he addressed himself exclusively 
to Morhange, considering him alone worthy of his 
confidences. 

"There have been many, sir," he said, "both 
French and foreign officers who have been brought 
here at the caprice of our sovereign, Antinea. You 
are the first to be honored by my disclosures. But 
you were the pupil of Berlioux, and I owe so much 
to the memory of that great man that it seems to me 
I may do him homage by imparting to one of his 
disciples the unique results of my private research." 

He struck the bell. Ferradji appeared. 

"Coffee for these gentlemen," ordered M. Le 
Mesge. 

He handed us a box, gorgeously decorated in the 
most flaming colors, full of Egyptian cigarettes. 

"I never smoke," he explained. "But Antinea 
sometimes comes here. These are her cigarettes. 
Help yourselves, gentlemen." 

130 



ATLANTIS 131 

I have always had a horror of tiiat pale tobacco 
which gives a barber of the Rue de la Michodicre 
the illusion of oriental voluptuousness. But, in their 
way, these musk-sccnted cigarettes were not bad, and 
it was a long time since I had used up my stock of 
Caporal. 

"Here are the back numbers of Le Vie Paris- 
ietme," said M. Le Mesge to me. "Amuse yourself 
with them, if you like, while I talk to your friend." 

"Sir," I replied brusquely, "it is true that I never 
studied with Berlioux. Nevertheless, you must al- 
low me to listen to your conversation : I shall hope 
to find something in it to amuse me." 

"As you wish," said the little old man. 

We settled ourselves comfortably. Kl. Le Mesge 
sat down before the desk, shot his cuffs, and com- 
menced as follows : 

"However much, gentlemen, I prize complete ob- 
jcQtivity in matters of erudition, I cannot utterly de- 
tach my own history from that of the last descend- 
ant of Clito and Neptune. 

"I am the creation of my own efforts. From my 
childhood, the prodigious impulse given to the science 
of history by the nineteenth century has affected me. 
I saw where my way led. I have followed it, in 
spite of everything, 

"In spite of everything, everything — I mean it 
literally. With no other resources than my own 
work and merit, T was received as Fellow of History 



132 ATLANTIDA 

and Geography at the examination of 1880. A 
great examination! Among the thirteen who were 
accepted there were names which have since become 
Illustrious: Julian, Bourgeois, Auerbach. . . .- I do 
not envy my colleagues on the summits of their of- 
ficial honors; I read their works with commiseration; 
and the pitiful errors to which they are condemned 
by the insufficiency of their documents would amply 
counterbalance my chagrin and fill me with Ironic 
joy, had I not been raised long since above the satis- 
faction of self-love. 

"When I was Professor at the Lycee du Pare at 
Lyons. I knew Berlioux and followed eagerly his 
works on African History. I had, at that time, a 
very original Idea for my doctor's thesis. I was go- 
ing to establish a parallel between the Berber heroine 
of the seventh century, who struggled against the 
Arab invader, Kahena, and the French heroine, Joan 
of Arc, who struggled against the English invader. 
I proposed to the Faculte des Lettres at Paris this 
title for my thesis: Joan of Arc and the Tuareg. 
This simple announcement gave rise to a perfect out- 
cry in learned circles, a furor of ridicule. My friends 
warned me discreetly. I refused to believe them. 
Finally I was forced to beheve when my rector sum- 
moned me before him and, after manifesting an as- 
tonishing interest in my health, asked whether I 
should object to taking two years' leave on half pay. 
I refused indignantly. The rector did not Insist; 



ATLANTIS 13.3 

but fifteen days later, a ministerial decree, with no 
other legal procedure, assigned me tn one of the 
most insignificant and remote Lycees of France, at 
Mont-de-Mars an. 

"Realize my exasperation and you will excuse the 
excesses to which I delivered myself In that strange 
country. What is there to do in Landes, if you 
neither eat nor drink? I did both violently. My 
pay melted away in fois gras, in woodcocks, in fine 
wines. The result came quickly enough : in less than 
a year my joints began to crack like the over-oiled 
axle of a bicycle that has gone a long way upon a 
dusty track. A sharp attack of gout nailed me to 
my bed. Fortunately, in that blessed country, the 
cure is in reach of the suffering. So I departed to 
Dax, at vacation time, to try the waters. 

"I rented a room on the bank of the Adour, over- 
looking the Promenade des Baignots. A charwoman 
took care of It for me. She worked also for an old 
gentleman, a retired Examining Magistrate, Presi- 
dent of the Roger-Ducos Society, which was a vague 
scientific backwater, in which the scholars of the 
neighborhood applied themselves with prodigious 
incompetence to the most whimsical subjects. One 
afternoon I stayed in my room on account of a 
very heavy rain. The good woman was energetic- 
ally polishing the copper latch of my door. She 
used a pasce called Tripoli, which she spread upon 
a paper and rubbed and rubbed. . . . The peculiar 



134 ATLANTIDA 

appearance of the paper made me curious. I glanced 
at it. 'Great heavens! Where did you get this 
paper?' She was perturbed. *At my master's; he 
has lots of it. I tore this out of a notebook.' 'Here 
are ten francs. Go and get me the notebook.' 

"A quarter of an hour later, she was back with it. 
By good luck it lacked only one page, the one with 
which she had been polishing my door. This manu- 
script, this notebook, have you any idea what it was? 
Merely the Voyage to Atlantis of the mythologist 
Denis de Milet, which is mentioned by Diodorus and 
the loss of which I had so often heard Berlioux de- 
plore.^ 

"This inestimable document contained numerous 
quotations from the Critias. It gave an abstract of 
the illustrious dialogue, the sole existing copy of 
which you held in your hands a little while ago. It 
established past controversy the location of the 
stronghold of the Atlantides, and demonstrated that 
this site, which is denied by science, was not sub- 
merged by the waves, as is supposed by the rare and 
timorous defenders of the Atlantide hypothesis. He 
called it the 'central Mazycian range.' You know 
there is no longer any doubt as to the identification 

1 How did the Voyage to Atlantis arrive at Dax? I have 
found, so far, only one credible hypothesis : it might have been 
discovered in Africa by the traveller, de Behagle, a member of 
the Roger-Ducos Society, who studied at the college of Dax, 
and later, on several occasions, visited the town. (Note by 
M. Leroux.) 



ATLANTIS 135 

of the Mazyces of Herodotus with the people of 
Imoschaoch, the Tuareg. But the manuscript of 
Denys unquestionably identifies the historical Mazy- 
ces with the Atlantides of the supposed legend. 

"I learned, therefore, from Denys, not only that 
the central part of Atlantis, the cradle and home of 
the dynasty of Neptune, had not sunk in the disaster 
described by Plato as engulfing the rest of the At- 
lantide isle, but also that it corresponded to the 
Tuareg Ahaggar, and that, in this Ahaggar, at least 
in his time, the noble dynasty of Neptune was sup- 
posed to be still existent. 

"The historians of Atlantis put the date of the 
cataclysm which destroyed all or part of that fam- 
ous country at nine thousand years before Christ. 
If Denis de Milet, who wrote scarcely three thousand 
years ago, believed that in his time, the dynastic 
issue of Neptune was still ruling its dominion, you 
will understand that I thought immediately — what 
has lasted nine thousand years may last eleven thou- 
sand. From that instant I had only one aim : to find 
the possible descendants of the Atlantides, and, since 
I had many reasons for supposing them to be debased 
and ignorant of their original splendor, to inform 
them of their illustrious descent. 

"You will easily understand that I imparted none 
of my intentions to my superiors at the University. 
To solicit their approval or even their permission, 
considering the attitude they had taken toward me, 



136 ATLANTIDA 

would have been almost certainly to invite confine- 
ment in a cell. So I raised what I could on my own 
account, and departed without trumpet or drum for 
Oran. On the first of October I reached In-Salah. 
Stretched at my ease beneath a palm tree, at the 
oasis, I took infinite pleasure in considering how, 
that very day, the principal of Mont-de-Marsan, be- 
side himself, struggling to control twenty horrible 
urchins howling before the door of an empty class 
room, would be telegraphing wildly in all directions 
in search of his lost history professor." 

M. Le Mesge stopped and looked at us to mark 
his satisfaction. 

I admit that I forgot my dignity and I forgot the 
affectation he had steadily assumed of talking only 
to Morhange. 

"You will pardon me, sir. If your discourse Inter- 
ests me more than I had anticipated. But you know 
very well that I lack the fundamental instruction 
necessary to understand you. You speak of the 
dynasty of Neptune. What Is this dynasty, from 
which, I believe, you trace the descent of Antinea? 
What is her role in the story of Atlantis?" 

M. Le Mesge smiled with condescension, mean- 
time winking at Morhange with the eye nearest to 
him. Morhange was listening without expression, 
without a word, chin In hand, elbow on knee. 

"Plato will answer for me, sir," said the Pro- 
fessor. 



ATLANTIS 137 

And he added, with an accent of inexpressible pity : 

"Is it really possible that you have never made 
the acquaintance of the introduction to the Critias?" 

He placed on the table the book, by which Mor- 
iiange had been so strangely moved. He adjusted 
his spectacles and began to read. It seemed as if 
the magic of Plato vibrated through and transfig- 
ured this ridiculous little old man. 

" 'Having drawn by lot the difterent parts of the 
earth, the gods obtained, some a larger, and some, 
a smaller share. It was thus that Neptune, having 
received in the division the isle of Atlantis, came to 
place the children he had had by a mortal in one part 
of that isle. It was not far from the sea, a plain 
situated in the midst of the isle, the most beautiful, 
and, they say, the most fertile of plains. About fifty 
stades from that plain, In the middle of the isle, was 
a mountain. There dwelt one of those men who, In 
the very beginning, was born of the Earth, Evenor, 
with his wife, Leucippo. They had only one daugh- 
ter, Clito. She was marriageable when her mother 
and father died, and Neptune, being enamored of 
her, married her. Neptune fortified the mountain 
where she dwelt by Isolating It. He made alternate 
girdles of sea and land, the one smaller, the others 
greater, two of earth and three of water, and cen- 
tered them round the Isle in such a manner that they 
were at all parts equally distant! . . ." 

M. le Mesge broke off his reading. 



138 ATLANTIDA 

"Does this arrangement recall nothing to you?" 
he queried. 

"Morhange, Morhange!" I stammered. "You 
remember — our route yesterday, our abduction, the 
two corridors that we had to cross before arriving 
at this mountain? . . . The girdles of earth and of 
water? . . . Two tunnels, two enclosures of earth?" 

"Ha ! Ha !" chuckled M. Le Mesge. 

He smiled as he looked at me. I understood that 
this smile meant: "Can he be less obtuse than I had 
supposed?" 

As if with a mighty effort, Morhange broke the 
silence. 

"I understand well enough, I understand. . . . 
The three girdles of water. . . . But then, you are 
supposing, sir, — an explanation the ingeniousness of 
which I do not contest — you are supposing the exact 
hypothesis of the Saharan sea!" 

"I suppose it, and I can prove it," replied the Iras- 
cible little old chap, banging his fist on the table. 
"I know well enough what Schirmer and the rest 
have advanced against it. I know It better than 
you do. I know all about It, sir. I can present all 
the proofs for your consideration. And In the mean- 
time, this evening at dinner, you will no doubt en- 
joy some excellent fish. And you will tell me if these 
fish, caught In the lake that you can see from this 
window, seem to you fresh water fish. 

"You must realize," he continued more calmly, 



ATLANTIS 139 

*the mistake of those ^vho, believing in Atlantis, 
have sought to explain the cataclysm in which they 
suppose the whole island to have sunk. Without 
exception, tliey have thought that it was swallowed 
up. Actually, there has not been an immersion. 
There has been an emersion. New lands have 
emerged from the Atlantic wave. The desert has 
replaced the sea, the scbkhas, the salt lakes, the 
Triton lakes, the sandy Syrtes are the desolate ves- 
tiges of the free sea water over which, in former 
days, the fleets swept with a fair wind towards the 
conquest of Attica. Sand swallows up civilization 
better than water. To-day there remains nothing of 
the beautiful isle that the sea and winds kept gay and 
verdant but this chalky mass. Nothing has endured 
In this rocky basin, cut off forever from the living 
world, but the marvelous oasis that you have at your 
feet, these red fruits, this cascade, this blue lake, 
sacred witnesses to the golden age that is gone. Last 
evening, in coming here, you had to cross the five 
enclosures: the three belts of water, dry forever; 
the two girdles of earth through which are hollowed 
the passages you traversed on camel back, where, 
formerly, the triremes floated. The only thing that, 
in this immense catastrophe, has preserved its like- 
ness to its former state, is this mountain, the moun- 
tain where Neptune shut up his well-beloved Cllto, 
the daughter of Evenor and Leucippe, the mother 
of Atlas, and the ancestress of Antinea, the sover- 



I40 ATLANTIDA 

eign under whose dominion you are about to enter 
forever." 

"Sir," said Morhange with the most exquisite 
courtesy, "it would be only a natural anxiety which 
would urge us to inquire the reasons and the end of 
this dominion. But behold to what extent your reve- 
lation interests me; I defer this question of private 
interest. Of late, in two caverns, it has been my 
fortune to discover Tifinar inscriptions of this name, 
Antinea. My comrade is witness that I took it for 
a Greek name. I understand now, thanks to you and 
the divine Plato, that I need no longer feel sur- 
prised to hear a barbarian called by a Greek name. 
But I am no less perplexed as to the etymology of 
the word. Can you enlighten me?" 

"I shall certainly not fail you there, sir," said M. 
Le Mesge. "I may tell you, too, that you are not the 
first to put to me that question. Most of the explor- 
ers that I have seen enter here in the past ten years 
have been attracted in the same way, intrigued by 
this Greek work reproduced in Tifinar. I have even 
arranged a fairly exact catalogue of these inscrip- 
tions and the caverns where they are to be met with. 
All, or almost all, are accompanied by this legend: 
Antinea. Here commences her domain. I myself 
have had repainted with ochre such as were begin- 
ning to be effaced. But, to return to what I was 
telling you before, none of the Europeans who have 
followed this epigraphic mystery here, have kept 



ATLANTIS 141 

their anxiety to solve this etymology once they found 
themselves in Antinea's palace. They all become 
otherwise preoccupied. I might make many dis- 
closures as to the little real importance which purely 
scientific interests possess even for scholars, and the 
quickness with which they sacrifice them to the most 
mundane considerations, — their own lives, for in- 
stance." 

"Let us take that up another time, sir, if it is sat- 
isfactory to you," said Morhange, always admirably 
polite. 

"This digression had only one point, sir: to show 
you that I do not count you among these unworthy 
scholars. You are really eager to know the origin 
of this name, Antinea, and that before knowing what 
kind of woman it belongs to and her motives for 
holding you and this gentleman as her prisoners." 

I stared hard at the little old man. But he spoke 
with profound seriousness. 

"So much the better for you, my boy," I thought. 
"Otherwise it wouldn't have taken me long to send 
you through the window to air your ironies at your 
case. The law of gravity ought not to be topsy- 
turvy here at Ahaggar." 

"You, no doubt, formulated several hypotheses 
when you first encountered the name, Antinea," con- 
tinued M. Le Mesge, imperturbable under my fixed 
gaze, addressing himself to Morhange. "Would 
you object to repeating them to me?" 



142 ATLANTIDA 

"Not at all, sir," said Morhange. 

And, very composedly, he enumerated the ety- 
mological suggestions I have given previously. 

The little man with the cherry-colored shirt front 
rubbed his hands. 

"Ver};' good," he admitted with an accent of intense 
jubilation. "Amazingly good, at least for one with 
only the modicum of Greek that you possess. But 
it is all none the less false, super-false." 

"It is because I suspected as much that I put my 
question to you," said Morhange blandly. 

"I will not keep you longer in suspense," said M. 
Le Mesge. "The word, Antinea, is composed as 
follows: ti is nothing but a Tifinar addition to an 
essentially Greek name. Ti is the Berber feminine 
article. We have several examples of this combina- 
tion. Take Tipasa, the North African town. The 
name means the whole, from ti and from van. 
So, tinea signifies the new, from ti and from ea." 

"And the prefix anf" queried Morhange. 

"Is it possible, sir, that I have put myself to the 
trouble of talking to you for a solid hour about the 
Critiasi with such trifling effect? It is certain that 
the prefix an, alone, has no meaning. You will 
understand that it has one, when I tell you that we 
have here a very curious case of apocope. You must 
not read an; you must read atlan. Atl has been lost, 
by apocope; an has survived. To sum up, Antinea 
is composed in the following manner: I ri-vea — 



ATLANTIS 143 

otX *Ai/. And its meaning, the ticxv .Atlantis, 
is dazzlingly apparent from this demonstration." 

I looked at Morhange. His astonishment was 
without bonnds. The Berber prefix // had literally 
stunned him. 

"Have you had occasion, sir, to verify this very 
ingenious etymology?" he was finally able to gasp 
out. 

"You have only to glance over these few books," 
said M. Le Mesge disdainfully. 

He opened successively five, ten, twenty cup- 
boards. An enormous library was spread out to our 
view. 

"Everything, everj'-thing — it is all here," mur- 
mured Morhange, with an astonishing inflection of 
terror and admiration. 

"Everything that is worth consulting, at any rate," 
said M. Le Mesge. "All the great books, whose 
loss the so-called learned world deplores to-day." 

"And how has it happened?" 

"Sir, you distress me. I thought you familiar with 
certain events. You are forgetting, then, the passage 
where Pliny the Elder speaks of the library of Carth- 
age and the treasures which were accumulated there? 
In 146, when that city fell under the blows of the 
knave, Scipio, the incredible collection of illiterates 
who bore the nam.e of the Roman Senate had only 
the profoundest contempt for these riches. They 
presented them to the native kings. This is how 



144 ATLANTIDA 

Mantabal received this priceless heritage; It was 
transmitted to his son and grandson, Hiempsal, Juba 
I, Juba II, the husband of the admirable Cleopatra 
Selene, the daughter of the great Cleopatra and 
Mark Antony. Cleopatra Selene had a daughter 
who married an Atlantide king. This Is how An- 
tinea, the daughter of Neptune, counts among her 
ancestors the immortal queen of Egypt. That is 
how, by following the laws of Inheritance, the re- 
mains of the library of Carthage, enriched by the 
remnants of the librar)'' of Alexandria, are actually 
before your eyes. 

"Science fled from man. While he was building 
those monstrous Babels of pseudo-science In Berlin, 
London, Paris, Science was taking refuge in this 
desert corner of Ahaggar. They may well forge 
their hypotheses back there, based on the loss of the 
mysterious works of antiquity: these works are not 
lost. They are here. They are here: the Hebrew, 
the Chaldean, the Assyrian books. Here, the great 
Egyptian traditions which inspired Solon, Herodotus 
and Plato. Here, the Greek mythologists, the ma- 
gicians of Roman Africa, the Indian mystics, all the 
treasures. In a word, for the lack of which contem- 
porary dissertations are poor laughable things. Be- 
lieve me, he Is well avenged, the little universitarlan 
whom they took for a madman, whom they defied. 
I have lived, I live, I shall live In a perpetual burst 
of laughter at their false and garbled erudition. 



ATLANTIS 145 

And when I shall he dead, l"'rror, — thanks to the 
jealous precaution of Neptune taken to isolate his 
well-beloved Clito from the rest of the world, — 
Error, I say, will continue to reign as sovereign mis- 
tress over their pitiful compositions." 

"Sir," said Morhange in a grave voice, "you have 
just affirmed the influence of I-gypt on the civiliza- 
tions of tiie people here. For reasons which some 
day, perhaps, I shall have occasion to explain to you, 
I would like to have proof of that relationship." 

"We need not wait for that, sir," said M. Lc 
Mesge. Then, in my turn, I advanced. 

"Two words, if you please, sir," I said brutally. 
"I will not hide from you that these historical dis- 
cussions seem to me absolutely out of place. It is 
not my fault if you have had trouble with the Uni- 
versity, and if you are not to-day at the College of 
France or elsewhere. For the moment, just one thing 
concerns me: to know just what this lady, Antinea, 
wants with us. My comrade would like to know her 
relation with ancient Egypt: very well. For my 
part, I desire above everything to know her rela- 
tions with the government of Algeria and the 
Arabian Bureau." 

M. Le Mesge gave a strident laugh. 

"I am going to give you an answer that will sat- 
isfy you both," he replied. 

And he added: 

"Follow me. It is time that vou should learn." 



CHAPTER X 



THE RED MARBLE HALL 



We passed through an interminable series of 
stairs and corridors following M. Le Mesge. 

"You lose all sense of direction in this labyrinth," 
I muttered to Morhange. 

"Worse still, you will lose your head," answered 
my companion sotto voce. "This old fool is cer- 
tainly very learned; but God knows what he is driv- 
ing at. However, he has promised that we are soon 
to know." 

M. Le Mesge had stopped before a heavy dark 
door, all incrusted with strange symbols. Turning 
the lock with difficulty, he opened It. 

"Enter, gentlemen, I beg you," he said. 

A gust of cold air struck us full in the face. The 
room we were entering was chill as a vault. 

At first, the darkness allowed me to form no idea 
of Its proportions. The lighting, purposely subdued, 
consisted of twelve enormous copper lamps, placed 
column-like upon the ground and burning with bril- 
liant red flames. As we entered, the wind from the 

146 



THE RED MARBLE HALL 147 

corridor made the flames flicker, momentarily cast- 
ing about us our own enlarged and misshapen shad- 
ows. Then the gust died down, and the flames, no 
longer flurried, again licked up the darkness with 
their motionless red tongues. 

These twelve giant lamps (each one about ten feet 
high) were arranged in a kind of crown, the diam- 
eter of which must have been about fifty feet. In 
the center of this circle wis a dark mass, all streaked 
with trembling red reflections. When I drew nearer, 
I saw it was a bubbling fountain. It was the fresh- 
ness of this water which had maintained the tem- 
perature of which I have spoken. 

Huge seats were cut in the central rock from which 
gushed the murmuring, shadowy fountain. They 
were heaped with silky cushions. Twelve incense 
burners, within the circle of red lamps, formed a 
second crown, half as large in diameter. Their 
smoke mounted toward the vault, invisible in the 
darkness, but their perfume, combined with the cool- 
ness and sound of the water, banished from the soul 
all other desire than to remain there forever. 

M. Le Mesge made us sit down in the center of 
the hall, on the Cyclopean seats. He seated himself 
between us. 

"In a few minutes," he said, "your eyes will grow 
accustomed to the obscurity." 

I noticed that he spoke in a hushed voice, as if he 
were in church. 



148 ATLANTIDA 

Little by little, our eyes did indeed grow used to 
the red light. Only the lower part of the great hall 
was illuminated. The whole vault was drowned in 
shadow and its height was impossible to estimate. 
Vaguely, I could perceive overhead a great smooth 
gold chandelier, flecked, like everything else, with 
sombre red reflections. But there was no means of 
judging the length of the chain by which It hung 
from the dark ceiling. 

The marble of the pavement was of so high a 
polish, that the great torches were reflected even 
there. 

This room, I repeat, was round a perfect cir- 
cle of which the fountain at our backs was the 
center. 

We sat facing the curving walls. Before long, 
we began to be able to see them. They were of 
peculiar construction, divided into a series of niches, 
broken, ahead of us, by the door which had just 
opened to give us passage, behind us, by a second 
door, a still darker hole which I divined in the dark- 
ness when I turned around. From one door to the 
other, I counted sixty niches, making, in all, one 
hundred and twenty. Each was about ten feet high. 
Each contained a kind of case, larger above than be- 
low, closed only at the lower end. In all these cases, 
except two just opposite me, I thought I could dis- 
cern a brilliant shape, a human shape certainly, some- 
thing like a statue of very pale bronze. In the arc 



THE RED MARBLE HALL 149 

of the circle before me, I counted clearly thirty of 
these strange statues. 

What were these statues? I v/anted to see. I 
rose. 

M. Le Mesge put his hand on my arm. 

"In good time," he mumiured in the same low 
voice, "all in good time." 

The Professor was watching the door by which 
we had entered the hall, and from behind which we 
could hear the sound of footsteps becoming more 
and more distinct. 

It opened quietly to admit three Tuareg slaves. 
Two of them were carrying a long package on their 
shoulders; the third seemed to be their chief. 

At a sign from him, they placed the package on 
the ground and drew out from one of the niches the 
case which it contained. 

"You may approach, gentlemen," said M. Le 
Mesge. 

He motioned the three Tuareg to withdraw sev- 
eral paces. 

"You asked me, not long since, for some proof 
of the Egyptian influence on this country," said M. 
Le Mesge. "What do you say to that case, to be- 
gin with?" 

As he spoke, he pointed to the case that the ser- 
vants had deposited upon the ground after they took 
it from its niche. 

Morhange uttered a thick cry. 



ISO ATLANTIDA 

We had before us one of those cases designed 
for the preservation of mummies. The same shiny 
wood, the same bright decorations, the only differ- 
ence being that here Tlfinar writing replaced the 
hieroglyphics. The form, narrow at the base, 
broader above, ought to have been enough to en- 
lighten us. 

I have already said that the lower half of this 
large case was closed, giving the whole structure the 
appearance of a rectangular wooden shoe. 

M. Le Mesge knelt and fastened on the lower 
part of the case, a square of white cardboard, a 
large label, that he had picked up from his desk, a 
few minutes before, on leaving the library. 

"You may read," he said simply, but still in the 
same low tone. 

I knelt also, for the light of the great candelabra 
was scarcely sufficient to read the label where, 
none the less, I recognized the Professor's hand- 
writing. 

It bore these few words, in a large round hand: 

"Number 53. Major Sir Archibald Russell, 
Born at Richmond, July 5, i860. Died at Ahaggar, 
December 3, 1896." 

I leapt to my feet. 

"Major Russell!" I exclaimed. 

"Not so loud, not so loud," said M. Le Mesge. 
"No one speaks out loud here." 

"The Major Russell," I repeated, obeying his in- 



THE RED MARBLK HALL 151 

junction as if in spite of myself, "who left Khartoum 
last year, to explore Sokoto?" 

"The same," replied the Professor. 

"And . . . where is Major Russell?" 

"He is there," replied M. Le Mesge. 

The Professor made a gesture. The Tuareg ap- 
proached. 

A poignant silence reigned in the mysterious hall, 
broken only by the fresh splashing of the fountain. 

The three negroes were occupied in undoinfT^ the 
package that they had put down near the painted 
case. Weighed down with wordless horror, Mor- 
hange and I stood watching. 

Soon, a rigid form, a human form, appeared. A 
red gleam played over it. We had before us, 
stretched out upon the ground, a statue of pale 
bronze, wrapped in a kind of white veil, a statue like 
those all around us, upright in their niches. It 
seemed to fix us with an impenetrable gaze. 

"Sir Archibald Russell," murmured M. Le Mesge 
slowly. 

Morhange approached, speechless, but strong 
enough to lift up the white veil. For a long, long 
time he gazed at the sad bronze statue. 

"A mummy, a mummy?" he said finally. "You 
deceive yourself, sir, this is no mummy." 

"Accurately speaking, no," replied M. Le Mesge. 
"This is not a mummy. None the less, you have be- 
fore you the mortal remains of Sir Archibald Rus- 



152 ATLANTIDA 

sell. I must point out to you, here, my dear sir, that 
the processes of embalming used by Antinea differ 
from the processes employed in ancient Egypt. 
Here, there is no natron, nor bands, nor spices. The 
industry of Ahaggar, in a single effort, has achieved 
a result obtained by European science only after long 
experiments. Imagine my surprise, when I arrived 
here and found that they were employing a method 
I supposed known only to the civilized world." 

M. Le Mesge struck a light tap with his finger 
on the forehead of Sir Archibald Russell. It rang 
like metal. 

"It is bronze," I said. "That is not a human 
forehead: it is bronze." 

M. Le Mesge shrugged his shoulders. 

"It is a human forehead," he affirmed curtly, "and 
not bronze. Bronze is darker, sir. This Is the great 
unknown metal of which Plato speaks in the Critias, 
and which is something between gold and silver : it 
is the special metal of the mountains of the Atlan- 
tides. It is orichalch.^' 

Bending again, I satisfied myself that this metal 
was the same as that with which the walls of the li- 
brary were overcast. 

"It is orichalch," continued M. Le Mesge. "You 
look as if you had no idea how a human body can 
look like a statue of orichalch. Come, Captain Mor- 
hange, you whom I gave credit for a certain amount 
of knowledge, have you never heard of the method 



THE RED MARBLE HALL 153 

of Dr. Variot, by which a human body can he pre- 
served without embalming? Have you never read 
the book of that practitioner?^ He explains a 
method called electro-plating. The skin is coated 
with a very thin layer of silver salts, to make it a 
conductor. The body then is placed in a solution of 
copper sulphate, and the polar currents do their 
work. The body of this estimable English major 
has been metalized in the same manner, except that 
a solution of orichalch sulphate, a very rare sub- 
stance, has been substituted for that of copper sul- 
phate. Thus, instead of the statue of a poor slave, 
a copper statue, you have before you a statue of 
metal more precious than silver or gold, in a word, 
a statue worthy of the granddaughter of Neptune." 

\L Le Mesge waved his arm. The black slaves 
seized the body. In a few seconds, they slid the ori- 
chalch ghost into its painted wooden sheath. That 
was set on end and slid into its niche, beside the niche 
where an exactly similar sheath was labelled "Num- 
ber 52." 

Upon finishing their task, they retired without a 
word. A draught of cold air from the door again 
made the flames of the copper torches flicker and 
threw great shadows about us. 

Morhange and I remained as motionless as the 
pale metal specters which surrounded us. Suddenly 

1 Variot: L'anthropologie galvanique. Paris, 1890. (Note by 
M. Leroux.) 



154 ' ATLANTIDA 

I pulled myself together and staggered forward to 
the niche beside that in which they just had laid the 
remains of the English major. I looked for the 
label. 

Supporting myself against the red marble wall, I 
read: 

"Number 52. Captain Laurent Deligne. Born 
at Paris, July 22, 1861. Died at Ahaggar, October 
30, 1896." 

"Captain Deligne!" murmured Morhahge. "He 
left Colomb-Bechar in 1895 for Timmimoun and no 
more has been heard of him since then." 

"Exactly," said M. Le Mesge, with a little nod 
of approval. 

"Number 51," read Morhange with chattering 
teeth. "Colonel von Wittman, born at Jena in 1855. 
Died at Ahaggar, May I, 1896. . . . Colonel Witt- 
man, the explorer of Kanem, who disappeared off 
Agades." 

"Exactly," said M. Le Mesge again. 

"Number 50," I read in my turn, steadying my- 
self against the wall, so as not to fall. "Marquis 
Alonzo d'Oliveira, born at Cadiz, February 21, 
1868. Died at Ahaggar, February i, 1896. Oliv- 
eira, who was going to Araouan." 

"Exactly," said M. Le Mesge again. "That Span- 
iard was one of the best educated. I used to have 
interesting discussions with him on the exact geo- 
graphical position of the kingdom of Antee." 



THE RED M A R B L I". MALI. 1 55 

''Number 49," said Morhanpe In a tone scarcely 
more than a whisper. "Lieutenant Woodhouse, 
born at Liverpool, September 16, 1870. Died at 
Ahaggar, October 4, 1895." 

"Hardly more than a child," said M. Le Mesgc. 

"Number 48," I said. "Lieutenant Louis de 
Maillefeu, born at Provins, the . . ." 

I did not finish. My voice choked. 

Louis de Maillefeu, my best friend, the friend of 
my childhood and of Saint-Cyr. ... I looked at 
him and recognized him under the metallic coating. 
Louis de Maillefeu ! 

I laid my forehead against the cold wall and, 
with shaking shoulders, began to sob. 

I heard the muffled voice of Morhange speaking 
to the Professor: 

"Sir, this has lasted long enough. Let us make 
an end to It." 

"He wanted to know," said ^L Le Mesge. 
"What am I to do?" 

I went up to him and seized his shoulders. 

"What happened to him? What did he die of?" 

"Just like the others," the Professor replied, "just 
like Lieutenant Woodhouse, like Captain Deligne, 
like Major Russell, like Colonel van Wittman, like 
the forty-seven of yesterday and all those of to-mor- 
row." 

"Of what did they die?" Morhange demanded 
imperatively in his turn. 



156 ATLANTIDA 

The Professor looked at Morhange. I saw my 
comrade grow pale. 

"Of what did they die, sir? They died of love.'* 

And he added in a very low, very grave voice : 

"Now you know." 

Gently and with a tact which we should hardly 
have suspected in him, M, Le Mesge drew us 
away from the statues. A moment later, Morhange 
and I found ourselves again seated, or rather sunk 
among the cushions in the center of the room. The 
invisible fountain murmured its plaint at our feet. 

Le Mesge sat between us. 

"Now you know," he repeated. "You know, but 
you do not yet understand." 

Then, very slowly, he said: 

"You are, as they have been, the prisoners of 
Antlnea. And vengeance is due Antinea." 

"Vengeance?" said Morhange, who had regained 
his self-possession. "For what, I beg to ask? What 
have the lieutenant and I done to Atlantis? How 
have we incurred her hatred?" 

"It is an old quarrel, a very old quarrel," the 
Professor replied gravely. "A quarrel which long 
antedates you, M. Morhange." 

"Explain yourself, I beg of you, Professor." 

"You are Man. She is a Woman," said the 
dreamy voice of M. Le Mesge. "The whole mat- 
ter lies there." 

"Really, sir, I do not see . . . we do not see." 



THE RED MARBLE HALL 157 

"You are going to understand. Have you really 
forgotten to what an extent the beautiful queens of 
antiquity had just cause to complain of the strangers 
whom fortune brought to their borders? The poet, 
Victor Hugo, pictured their detestable acts well 
enough in his colonial poem called la Fille d'0-Taiti. 
Wherever we look, we see similar examples of 
fraud and ingratitude. These gentlemen made free 
use of the beauty and the riches of the lady. Then, 
one fine morning, they disappeared. She was in- 
deed lucky if her lover, having observed the position 
carefully, did not return with ships and troops of 
occupation. 

"Your learning charms me," said Morhange. 
"Continue." 

"Do you need examples? Alas! they abound. 
Think of the cavalier fashion in which Ulysses 
treated Calypso, Diomedes Callirhoe. What should 
I say of Theseus and Ariadne? Jason treated 
Medea with inconceivable lightness. The Romans 
continued the tradition with still greater brutalit>\ 
Aenaeus, who has many characteristics in common 
with the Reverend Spardek, treated Dido in a most 
undeserved fashion. Caesar was a laurel-crowned 
blackguard in his relations wnth the divine Cleo- 
patra. Titus, that hypocrite Titus, after having 
lived a whole year in Idummea at the expense of the 
plaintive Berenice, took her back to Rome only to 
make game of her. It is time that the sons of Japhet 



158 ATLANTIDA 

paid this formidable reckoning of injuries to the 
daughters of Shem. 

"A woman has taken it upon herself to re-estab- 
lish the great Hegelian law of equilibrium for the 
benefit of her sex. Separated from the Aryan world 
by the formidable precautions of Neptune, she 
draws the youngest and bravest to her. Her body 
is condescending, while her spirit is inexorable. She 
takes what these bold young men can give her. She 
lends them her body, while her soul dominates them. 
She is the first sovereign who has never been made 
the slave of passion, even for a moment. She has 
never been obliged to regain her self-mastery, for 
she never has lost it. She is the only woman who 
has been able to disassociate those two inextricable 
things, love and voluptuousness." 

M. Le Mesge paused a moment and then went on. 

"Once every day, she comes to this vault. She 
stops before the niches; she meditates before the 
rigid statues; she touches the cold bosoms, so burn- 
ing when she knew them. Then, after dreaming 
before the empty niche where the next victim soon 
will sleep his eternal sleep in a cold case of orichalch, 
she returns nonchalantly where he is waiting for 
her." 

The Professor stopped speaking. The fountain 
again made itself heard in the midst of the shadow. 
My pulses beat, my head seemed on fire. A fever 
was consuming me. 



THE RED MARBLE HA EL 159 

"And all of them," I cried, regardless of the 
place, "all of them complied! They submitted! 
Well, she has only to come and she will see what 
will happen." 

Morhange was silent. 

"My dear sir," said ^L Le Mesge in a very gentle 
voice, "you are speaking like a child. You do not 
know. You hnve not seen Antinea. Let me tell 
you one thing: that among those" — and with a 
sweeping gesture he indicated the silent circle of 
statues — "there were men as courageous as you and 
perhaps less excitable. I remember one of them 
especially well, a phlegmatic Englishman who now 
is resting under Number 32. When he first ap- 
peared before Antinea, he was smoking a cigar. 
And, like all the rest, he bent before the gaze of his 
sovereign. 

"Do not speak until you have seen her. A uni- 
versity training hardly fits one to discourse upon 
matters of passion, and I feel scarcely qualified, my- 
self, to tell you what Antinea is. I only affirm this, 
that when you have seen her, you will remember 
nothing else. Family, country, honor, you will re- 
nounce everything for her." 

"Everything?" asked Morhange in a calm voice. 

"Everything," Le Mesge Insisted emphatically. 
"You will forget all, you will renounce all." 

From outside, a faint sound came to us. 

Le Mesge consulted his watch. 



i6o ATLANTIDA 

"In any case, you will see." 

The door opened. A tall white Targa, the tallest 
we had yet seen in this remarkable abode, entered 
and came toward us. 

He bowed and touched me lightly on the shoulder, 

"Follow him," said M. Le Mesge. 

Without a word, I obeyed. 



CHAPTER XI 



ANTINEA 



My guide and I passed along another long cor- 
ridor. My excitement increased. I was impatient 
for one thing only, to come face to face with that 
woman, to tell her ... So far as anything else 
was concerned, I already was done for. 

I was mistaken in hoping that the adventure would 
take an heroic turn at once. In real life, these con- 
trasts never are definitely marked out. I should 
have remembered from many past incidents that the 
burlesque was regularly mixed with the tragic in my 
life. 

We reached a little transparent door. My guide 
stood aside to let me pass. 

I found myself in the most luxurious of dressing- 
rooms. A ground glass ceiling diffused a gay rosy 
light over the marble floor. The first thing I no- 
ticed was a clock, fastened to the wall. In place of 
the figures for the hours, were the signs of the 
Zodiac. The small hand had not yet reached the 
sign of Capricorn. 

i6i 



i62 ATLANTIDA 

Only three o'clock ! 

The day seemed to have lasted a century al- 
ready. . . . And only a little more than half of it 
was gone. 

Another idea came to me, and a convulsive laugh 
bent me double. 

"Antinea wants me to be at my best when I meet 
her.' 

A mirror of orichalch formed one whole side of 
the room. Glancing into it, I realized that in all 
decency there was nothing exaggerated in the de- 
mand. 

My untrimmed beard, the frightful layer of dirt 
which lay about my eyes and furrowed my cheeks, 
my clothing, spotted by all the clay of the Sahara 
and torn by all the thorns of Ahaggar — all this made 
me appear a pitiable enough suitor. 

I lost no time in undressing and plunging Into 
the porphry bath in the center of the room. A de- 
licious drowsiness came over me in that perfumed 
water. A thousand little jars, spread on a costly 
carved wood dressing-table, danced before my eyes. 
They were of all sizes and colors, carved in a very 
transparent kind of jade. The warm humidity of 
the atmosphere hastened my relaxation. 

I still had strength to think, "The devil take At- 
lantis and the vault and Le Mesge." 

Then I fell asleep in the bath. 

When I opened my eyes again, the little hand of 



AN TINE A 163 

the clock had almost reached the s'\gn of Taurus. 
Before me, his hlack hands braced on the edge of the 
bath, stood a huge negro, bare-faced and bare- 
armed, his forehead bound with an immense orange 
turban. 

He looked at me and showed his white teeth in a 
silent laugh. 

"Who is this fellow?" 

The negro laughed harder. Without saying a 
word, he lifted me like a feather out of the per- 
fumed water, now of a color on which I shall not 
dwell. 

In no time at all, I was stretched out on an in- 
clined marble table. 

The negro began to massage me vigorously 

"More gently there, fellow!" 

My masseur did not reply, but laughed and rubbed 
still harder. 

"Where do you come from? Kanem? Torkou? 
You laugh too much for a Targa." 

Unbroken silence. The negro was as speechless 
as he was hilarious. 

"After all, I am making a fool of myself," I said, 
giving up the case. "Such as he is, he is more agree- 
able than Le Mesge with his nightmarish erudition. 
But, on my word, what a recruit he would be for 
Hamman on the rue des Mathurins!" 

"Cigarette, sidi?" 

Without awaiting my reply, he placed a cigarette 



i64 ATLANTIDA 

between my lips and lighted it, and resumed his task 
of polishing every inch of me. 

"He doesn't talk much, but he is obliging," I 
thought. 

And I sent a puff of smoke into his face. 

This pleasantry seemed to delight him im- 
mensely. He showed his pleasure by giving me 
great slaps. 

When he had dressed me down sufficiently, he took 
a little jar from the dressing-table and began to rub 
me with a rose-colored ointment. Weariness seemed 
to fly away from my rejuvenated muscles. 

A stroke on a copper gong. My masseur disap- 
peared. A stunted old negress entered, dressed in 
the most tawdry tinsel. She was talkative as a mag- 
pie, but at first I did not understand a word in the 
interminable string she unwound, while she took first 
my hands, then my feet, and polished the nails with 
determined grimaces. 

Another stroke on the gong. The old woman 
gave place to another negro, grave, this time, and 
dressed all in white with a knitted skull cap on his 
oblong head. It was the barber, and a remarkably 
dexterous one. He quickly trimmed my hair, and, 
on my word, it was well done. Then, without ask- 
ing me what style I preferred, he shaved me clean. 

I looked with pleasure at my face, once more 
visible. 

"Antinea must like the American type," I thought. 



A NT I X F.A 165 

"What an affront to the memory of her worthy 
grandfather, Neptune!" 

The gay negro cntcrecJ and phiced a package on 
the divan. The barber disappeared. I was some- 
what astonished to obser\e that the package, which 
my new valet opened carefully, contained a suit of 
white flannels exactly like those French officers wear 
in Algeria in summer. 

The wide trousers seemed made to m.y measure. 
The tunic fitted without a wrinkle, and my aston- 
ishment was unbounded at observing that it even had 
two gilt (jalons, the insignia of my rank, braided on 
the cuffs. For shoes, there were slippers of red 
Morocco leather, with gold ornaments. The under- 
wear, all of silk, seemed to have come straight from 
the rue de la Paix. 

"Dinner w^as excellent," I murmured, looking at 
myself in the mirror with satisfaction. "The apart- 
ment is perfectly arranged. Yes, but . . ." 

I could not repress a shudder when I suddenly re- 
called that room of red marble. 

The clock struck half past four. 

Someone rapped gently on the door. The tall 
white Targa, who had brought me, appeared in the 
doorway. 

He stepped forward, touched me on the arm and 
signed for me to follow. 

Again I followed him. 

We passed through interminable corridors. I was 



i66 ATLANTIDA 

disturbed, but the warm water had given me a cer- 
tain feeling of detachment. i\nd above all, more 
than I wished to admit, I had a growing sense of 
lively curiosity. If, at that moment, someone had 
offered to lead me back to the route across the white 
plain near Shikh-Salah, would I have accepted? 
Hardly. 

I tried to feel ashamed of my curiosity. I thought 
of Maillefeu. 

"He, too, followed this corridor. And now he is 
down there, in the red marble hall." 

I had no time to linger over this reminiscence. I 
was suddenly bowled" over, thrown to the ground, 
as If by a sort of meteor. The corridor was dark; 
I could see nothing. I heard only a mocking growl. 

The white Targa had flattened himself back 
against the wall. 

"Good," I mumbled, picking myself up, "the devil- 
tries are beginning." 

We continued on our way. A glow different from 
that of the rose night lights soon began to light up 
the corridor. 

We reached a high bronze door. In which a strange 
lacy design had been cut in filigree. A clear gong 
sounded, and the double doors opened part way. 
The Targa remained In the corridor, closing the 
doors after me. 

I took a few steps forward mechanically, then 
paused, rooted to the spot, and rubbed my eyes. 



ANTINEA 167 

I was dazzled by the sight of the sky. 

Sev*eral hours of shaded light had unaccustomed 
me to daylight. It poured in through one whole side 
of the huge room. 

The room was in the lower part of this mountain, 
which was more honeycombed with corridors and 
passages than an Eg^'ptian pyramid. It was on a 
level with the garden which I had seen in the morn- 
ing from the balcony, and seemed to be a continua- 
tion of it; the carpet extended out under the great 
palm trees and the birds flew about the forest of 
pillars in the room. 

By contrast, the half of the room untouched by 
direct light from the oasis seemed dark. The sun. 
setting behind the mountain, painted the garden 
paths with rose and flamed with red upon the tra- 
ditional flamingo which stood with one foot raised 
at the edge of the sapphire lake. 

Suddenly I was bowled over a second time. 

I felt a warm, silky touch, a burning breath on my 
neck. Again the mocking growl which had so dis- 
turbed me in the corridor. 

With a wrench, I pulled myself free and sent a 
chance blow at my assailant. The cry, this time of 
pain and rage, broke out again. 

It was echoed by a long peal of laughter. Furi- 
ous, I turned to look for the insolent onlooker, think- 
ing to speak my mind. And then my glance stood 
still. 



i68 ATLANTIDA 

Antinea was before me. 

In the dimmest part of the room, under a kind of 
arch lit by the mauve rays from a dozen incense- 
lamps, four women lay on a heap of many-colored 
cushions and rare white Persian rugs. 

I recognized the first three as Tuareg women, of 
a splendid regular beauty, dressed in magnificent 
robes of white silk, embroidered in gold. The fourth, 
very dark skinned, almost negroid, seemed younger. 
A tunic of red silk enhanced the dusk of her face, 
her arms and her bare feet. The four were grouped 
about a sort of throne of white rugs, covered with a 
gigantic lion's skin, on which, half raised on one el- 
bow, lay Antinea. 

Antinea ! Whenever I saw her after that, I won- 
dered if I had really looked at her before, so much 
more beautiful did I find her. More beautiful? In- 
adequate word. Inadequate language ! But is it 
really the fault of the language or of those who abuse 
the word? 

One could not stand before her without recalling 
the woman for whom Ephractoeus overcame Atlas, 
of her for whom Sapor usurped the scepter of Ozy- 
mandias, for whom Mamylos subjugated Susa and 
Tentyris, for whom Antony fled. . . . 

O tremblant coeur hmnain, si jamais tii vibras 
C'est dans I'etreinte altiere et chatide de ses bras. 



A \ I' I \ r: A 169 

An Egyptian klaft fell over her abundant blue- 
black curls. Its two points of heavy, gold-embroid- 
ered cloth extended to her slim hips. The golden 
serpent, emerald-eyed, was clasped about her little 
round, determined forehead, darting its double 
tongue of rubies over her head. 

She wore a tunic of black chiffon shot with gold, 
very light, very full, slightly gathered in by 
a white muslin scarf embroidered with iris in 
black pearls. 

That was Antinea's costume. But what was she 
beneath all this? A slim young girl, with long green 
eyes and the slender profile of a hawk. A more in- 
tense Adonis. A child queen of Sheba, but with a 
look, a smile, such as no Oriental ever had. A mir- 
acle of irony and freedom. 

I did not see her body. Indeed I should not have 
thought of looking at it, had I had the strength. 
And that, perhaps, was the most extraordinary thing 
about that first impression. In that unforgettable 
moment nothing would have seemed to me more hor- 
ribly sacrilegious than to think of the fifty victims in 
the red marble hall, of the fifty young men who had 
held that slender body in their arms. 

She was still laughing at me. 

"King Hiram," she called. 

I turned and saw my enemy. 

On the capital of one of the columns, twenty feet 
above the floor, a splendid leopard was crouched. 



170 ATLANTIDA 

He still looked surly from the blow I had dealt 
him. 

"King Hiram," Antinea repeated. "Come here." 
The beast relaxed like a spring released. He 
fawned at his mistress's feet. I saw his red tongue 
licking her bare little ankles. 

"Ask the gentleman's pardon," she said. 
The leopard looked at me spitefully. The yellow 
skin of his muzzle puckered about his black mous- 
tache. 

"Fftt," he grumbled like a great cat. 
"Go," Antinea ordered imperiously. 
The beast crawled reluctantly toward me. He 
laid his head humbly between his paws and waited. 
I stroked his beautiful spotted forehead. 
"You must not be vexed," said Antinea. "He is 
always that way with strangers." 

"Then he must often be in bad humor," I said 
simply. 

Those were my first words. They brought a smile 
to Antinea's lips. 

She gave me a long, quiet look. 
"Aguida," she said to one of the Targa women, 
"you will give twenty-five pounds in gold to Cegheir- 
ben-Cheikh." 

"You are a lieutenant?" she asked, after a pause. 

"Yes." 

"Where do you come from?" 

"From France." 



ANTINEA 171 

**I might have guessed that," she said ironically, 
"but from what part of Trance?" 

"From what wc call the Lot-et-Garonne." 

"From what town?" 

"From Duras." 

She reflected a moment. 

"Duras! There Is a little river there, the Dropt, 
and a fine old chateau." 

"You know Duras?" I murmured, amazed. 

"You go there from Bordeaux by a little branch 
railway," she went on. "It is a shut-in road, with 
vine-covered hills crowned by the feudal niins. The 
villages have beautiful names: Monsegur, Sauve- 
terre-de-Guyenne, la Tresne, Creon, . . . Creon, as 
in Antigone." 

"You have been there?'* 

She looked at me. 

"Don't speak so coldly," she said. "Sooner or 
later we wall be intimate, and you may as well lay 
aside formality now." 

This threatening promise suddenly filled me with 
great happiness. I thought of Le Mesge's words: 
"Don't talk until you have seen her. When you 
have seen her, you will renounce everything for 
her." 

"Have I been In Duras?" she went on with a 
burst of laughter. "You are joking. Imagine Nep- 
tune's granddaughter In the first-class compartment 
of a local train!" 



172 ATLANTIDA 

She pointed to an enormous white rock which tow- 
ered above the palm trees of the garden. 

"That is my horizon," she said gravely. 

She picked up one of several books which lay 
scattered about her on the lion's skin. 

"The time table of the Chemin de Fer de VOuest," 
she said. "Admirable reading for one who never 
budges! Here it is half-past five in the afternoon. 
A train, a local, arrived three minutes ago at Sur- 
geres in the Charente-Inferleure. It will start on in 
six minutes. In two hours it will reach La Rochelle. 
How strange it seems to think of such things here. 
So far away! So much commotion there! Here, 
nothing changes." 

"You speak French well," I said. 

She gave a little nervous laugh. 

"I have to. And German, too, and Italian, and 
English and Spanish. My way of living has made 
me a great polyglot. But I prefer French, even 
to Tuareg and Arabian. It seems as if I had 
always known it. And I am not saying that to 
please you." 

There was a pause. I thought of her grand- 
mother, of whom Plutarch said: "There were few 
races with which she needed an interpreter. Cleo- 
patra spoke their own language to the Ethiopians, 
to the Troglodytes, the Hebrews, the Arabs, the 
Medes and the Persians." 

"Do not stand rooted in the middle of the room. 



A xN TINE A 173 

\'ou worry mc. Come sit here, beside me. Move 
over, King Hiram." 

The leopard obeyed with good temper. 

Beside her was an onyx bowl. She took from it 
a perfectly plain ring of orichalch and slipped it on 
my left ring-finger. I saw that she wore one like it. 

"Tanit-Zerga, give Monsieur de Saint-Avit a rose 
sherbet." 

The dark girl in red silk obeyed. 

"My private secretary," said Antinea, introduc- 
ing her. "Mademoiselle Tanit-Zerga, of Gao, 
on the Niger. Her family is almost as ancient 
as mine." 

As she spoke, she looked at me. Her green eyes 
seemed to be appraising me. 

"And your comrade, the Captain?" she asked in 
a dreamy tone. "I have not yet seen him. What is 
he like? Does he resemble you?" 

For the first time since I had entered, I thought 
of Morhange. I did not answer.. 

Antinea smiled. 

She stretched herself out full length on the lion 
skin. Her bare right knee slipped out from under 
her tunic. 

"It is time to go find him," she said languidly. 
"You will soon receive my orders. Tanit-Zerga, 
show him the way. First take him to his room. He 
cannot have seen it." 

I rose and lifted her hand to my lips. She struck 



174 ATLANTIDA 

me with it so sharply as to make my lips bleed, as 
if to brand me as her possession. ^ 

I was in the dark corridor again. The young girl 
in the red silk tunic walked ahead of me. 

"Here is your room," she said. "If you wish, I 
will take you to the dining-room. The others are 
about to meet there for dinner." 

She spoke an adorable lisping French. 

"No, Tanit-Zerga, I would rather stay here this 
evening. I am not hungry. I am tired." 

"You remember my name?" she said. 

She seemed proud of it. I felt that In her I had 
an ally in case of need. 

"I remember your name, Tanit-Zerga, because it 
Is beautiful."^ 

Then I added: 

"Now, leave me, little one. I want to be alone." 

It seemed as if she would never go. I was 
touched, but at the same time vexed. I felt a great 
need of withdrawing into myself. 

"My room is above yours," she said. "There Is 
a copper gong on the table here. You have only to 
strike if you want anything. A white Targa will 
answer." 

For a second, these instructions amused me. I 
was In a hotel In the midst of the Sahara. I had 
only to ring for service. 

iln Berber, Tanit means a spring; zerga is the feminine of 
the adjective azreg, blue. (Note by M. Leroux.) 



ANTTXFA 175 

I looked about my room. My room! For how 
long? 

It was fairly large. Cushions, a couch, an alcove 
cut into the rock, all lighted by a great window cov- 
ered by a matting shade. 

I went to the window and raised the shade. The 
light of the setting sun entered. 

I leaned my elbows on the rocky sill. Inexpres- 
sible emotion filled my heart. The window faced 
south. It Avas about two hundred feet above the 
ground. The black, polished volcanic wall yawned 
dizzily below me. 

In front of me, perhaps a mile and a half away, 
was another wall, the first enclosure mentioned in 
the Critias. And beyond it in the distance, I saw 
the limitless red desert. 



CHAPTER XII 

MORHANGE DISAPPEARS 

My fatigue was so great that I lay as If un- 
conscious until the next day. I awoke about three 
o'clock in the afternoon. 

I thought at once of the events of the previous 
day; they seemed amazing. 

"Let me see," I said to myself. "Let us work 
this out. I must begin by consulting Morhange." 

I was ravenously hungry. 

The gong which Tanit-Zerga had pointed out lay 
within arm's reach. I struck it. A white Targa 
appeared. 

"Show me the way to the library," I ordered. 

He obeyed. As we wound our way through the 
labyrinth of stairs and corridors I realized that I 
could never have found my way without his help. 

Morhange was in the library, intently reading a 
manuscript. 

"A lost treatise of Saint Optat," he said. "Oh, 
if only Dom Granger were here. See, it is written 
in semi-uncial characters." 

176 



MORHANGE DISAPPEARS 177 

I did not reply. My eyes were fixed on an object 
which lay on the table beside the manuscript. It was 
an orichalch ring, exactly like that which Antinca 
had given me the previous day and the one which she 
herself wore. 

Morhange smiled. 

"Well?" I said. 

"Well?" 

"You have seen her?" 

"I have indeed," Morhange replied. 

"She is beautiful, is she not?" 

"It would be difficult to dispute that," my com- 
rade answered. "I even believe that I can say that 
she is as intelligent as she is beautiful." 

There was a pause. Morhange was calmly fin- 
gering the orichalch ring. 

"You know what our fate is to be?" 

"I know. Le Mesge explained it to us yesterday 
in polite mythological terms. This evidently is an 
extraordinary adventure." 

He was silent, then said, looking at me: 

"I am very sorry to have dragged you here. The 
only mitigating feature is that since last evening you 
seem to have been bearing your lot very easily." 

Where had Morhange learned this insight into 
the human heart? I did not reply, thus giving him 
the best of proofs that he had judged correctly. 

"What do you think of doing?" I finally mur- 
TTiured. 



178 ATLANTIDA 

He rolled up the manuscript, leaned back com- 
fortably in his armchair and lit a cigar. 

"I have thought it over carefully. With the aid 
of my conscience I have marked out a line of con- 
duct. The matter is clear and admits no dis- 
cussion. 

"The question is not quite the same for me as for 
you, because of my semi-religious character, which, 
I admit, has set out on a rather doubtful adventure. 
To be sure, I have not taken holy orders, but, even 
aside from the fact that the ninth commandment it- 
self forbids my having relations with a woman not 
my wife, I admit that I have no taste for the kind 
of forced servitude for which the excellent Cegheir- 
ben-Cheikh has so kindly recruited us. 

"That granted, the fact remains that my life is 
not my own with the right to dispose of it as might 
a private explorer travelling at his own expenses and 
for his own ends. I have a mission to accomplish, 
results to obtain. If I could regain my liberty by 
paying the singular ransom which this country ex- 
acts, I should consent to give satisfaction to Antinea 
according to my ability. I know the tolerance of 
the Church, and especially that of the order to which 
I aspire: such a procedure would be ratified im- 
mediately and, who knows, perhaps even approved? 
Saint Mary the Egyptian, gave her body to boat- 
men under similar circumstances. She received only 
glorification for it. In so doing she had the cer- 



MORHANGE DISAIMMAKS 179 

tainty of attaining her goal, which was holy. The 
end justified the means. 

"But my case is quite different. If I give in to 
the absurd caprices of this woman, that will not keep 
me from being catalogued down in the red mar- 
ble hall, as Number 54, or as Number 55, if 
she prefers to take you first. Under those con- 
ditions ..." 

"Under those conditions?" 

"Under those conditions, it would be unpardonable 
for me to acquiesce." 

"Then what do you intend to do?" 

"What do I intend to do?" Morhange leaned 
back in the armchair and smilingly launched a puff 
of smoke toward the ceiling. 

"Nothing," he said. "And that is all that is neces- 
sary. Man has this superiority over woman. He 
is so constructed that he can refuse advances." 

Then he added with an ironical smile: 

"A man cannot be forced to accept unless he 
wishes to." 

T nodded. 

"I tried the most subtle reasoning on Antinea," 
he continued. "It was breath wasted. 'But,' I said 
at the end of my arguments, 'why not Le Mesge?' 
She began to laugh. 'Why not the Reverend Spar- 
dek?' she replied. 'Le Mesge and Spardek are sa- 
vants whom I respect. But 



i8o ATLANTIDA 

Maudit soil a jamais le reveur inutile, 
Qui voulut, le premier, dans sa stupidite, 
S'eprenant d'un probleme insoluble et sterile, 
Aux choses de I' amour meler I'honnetete. 

" 'Besides,' she added with that really very chami- 
ing smile of hers, 'probably you have not looked 
carefully at either of them.' There followed sev- 
eral compliments on my figure, to which I found 
nothing to reply, so completely had she disarmed me 
by those four lines from Baudelaire. 

"She condescended to explain further: 'Le Mesge 
is a learned gentleman whom I find useful. He 
knows Spanish and Italian, keeps my papers in order, 
and is busy working out my genealogy. The Rev- 
erend Spardek knows English and German. Count 
BieJowsky is thoroughly conversant with the Slavic 
languages. Besides, I love him like a father. He 
knew me as a child when I had not dreamed such 
stupid things as you know of me. TThey are indis- 
pensable to me in my relations with visitors of dif- 
ferent races, although I am beginning to get along 
well enough in the languages which I need. . . . But 
I am talking a great deal, and this is the first time 
that I have ever explained my conduct. Your friend 
is not so curious.' With that, she dismissed me. A 
strange woman indeed. 1 think there is a bit of 
Renan in her, but she is cleverer than that master of 
sensualism." 



M O R IT A X C; F. D I S A P P !•. A R S i S i 

"Gentlemen," said I.c Mesge, suddenly entering 
the room, "why are you so late? I'hey arc waiting 
dinner for you." 

The little Professor was In a particularly good 
humor that evening. He wore a new violet rosette. 

"Well?" he said, in a mocking tone, "you have 
seen her?" 

Neither Morhange nor I replied. 

The Reverend Spardek and the Hetman of Jito- 
mlr already had begun eating when we arrived. The 
setting sun threw raspberry lights on the cream-col- 
ored mat. 

"Be seated, gentlemen," said Le Mesge noisily. 
"Lieutenant de Saint-Avit, you were not with us last 
evening. You are about to taste the cooking of 
Koukou, our Bambara chef, for the first time. You 
must give me your opinion of it." 

A negro waiter set before me a superb fish cov- 
ered with a pimento sauce as red as tomatoes. 

I have explained that I was ravenously hungry. 
The dish was exquisite. The sauce immediately 
made me thirsty. 

"White Ahaggar, 1879," ^^^ Hetman of Jitomir 
breathed in my ear as he filled my goblet with a clear 
topaz liquid. "I developed it myself: rit'n pour la 
tete, tout pour les jambes." 

I emptied the goblet at a gulp. The company be- 
gan to seem charming. 

"Well, Captain Morhange," Le Mesge called out 



i82 ATLANTIDA 

to my comrade who had taken a mouthful of fish, 
"what do you say to this acanthopterygian? It was 
caught to-day in the lake in the oasis. Do you begin 
to admit the hypothesis of the Saharan sea?" 

"The fish is an argument," my companion replied. 

Suddenly he became silent. The door had opened. 
A white Targa entered. The diners stopped talk- 
ing. 

The veiled man walked slowly toward Morhange 
and touched his right arm. 

"Very well," said Morhange. 

He got up and followed the messenger. 

The pitcher of Ahaggar, 1879, stood between me 
and Count Bielowsky. I filled my goblet — a goblet 
which held a pint, and gulped it down. 

The Hetman looked at me sympathetically. 

"Ha, ha!" laughed Le Mesge, nudging me with 
his elbow. "Antinea has respect for the hierarchic 
order," 

The Reverend Spardek smiled modestly. 

"Ha, ha !" laughed Le Mesge again. 

My glass was empty. For a moment I was 
tempted to hurl it at the head of the Fellow in His- 
tory. But what of it? I filled it and emptied it 
again. 

"Morhange will miss this delicious roast of mut- 
ton," said the Professor, more and more hilarious, 
as he awarded himself a thick slice of meat. 

"He won't regret it," said the Hetman crossly. 



M O R H A N G E DISAPPEARS 183 

"This is not roast; it is ram's horn. Really Koukou 
is beginning to make fun of us." 

"Blame it on the Reverend," the shrill voice of 
Le Mesge cut in. "I have told him often enough to 
hunt other proselytes and leave our cook alone." 

"Professor," Spardek began with dignity. 

"I maintain my contention," cried Le Mesge, who 
seemed to me to be getting a bit overloaded. "I 
call the gentleman to witness," he went on, turning 
to me. "He has just come. He is unbiased. 
Therefore I ask him: has one the right to spoil a 
Bambara cook by addling his head with theological 
discussions for which he has no predisposition?" 

"Alas!" the pastor replied sadly. "You are mis- 
taken. He has only too strong a propensity to con- 
troversy." 

"Koukou is a good-for-nothing who uses Colas' 
cow as an excuse for doing nothing and letting our 
scallops burn," declared the Hetman. "Long live 
the Pope!" he cried, filling the glasses all 
around. 

"I assure you that this Bambara worries me," 
Spardek went on with great dignity. "Do you know 
what he has come to? He denies transubstantlation. 
He is within an inch of the heresy of Zwingll 
and Oecolampades. Koukou denies transubstan- 
tlation." 

"Sir," said Le Mesge, very much excited, "cooks 
should be left in peace. Jesus, whom I consider as 



i84 ATLANTIDA 

good a theologian as you, understood that, and It 
never occurred to him to call Martha away from 
her oven to talk nonsense to her." 

"Exactly so," said the Hetman approvingly. 

He was holding a jar between his knees and trying 
to draw its cork. 

*'Oh, Cotes Roties, wine from the Cote-Rotie!" 
he murmured to me as he finally succeeded. "Touch 
glasses." 

"Koukou denies transubstantiation," the pastor 
continued, sadly emptying his glass. 

"Eh !" said the Hetman of Jitomir in my ear, "let 
them talk on. Don't you see that they are quite 
drunk?" 

His own voice was thick. He had the greatest 
difficulty in the world in filling my goblet to the 
brim. 

I wanted to push the pitcher away. Then an idea 
came to me : 

"At this very moment, Morhange . . . What- 
ever he may say . . . She is so beautiful." 

I reached out for the glass and emptied it once 
more. 

Le Mesge and the pastor were now engaged in the 
most extraordinary religious controversy, throwing 
at each other's heads the Book of Common Prayer, 
The Declaration of the Rights of Man, and the 
Unigenitus. Little by little, the Hetman began to 
show that ascendancy over them, which is the char- 



M O R TI A N G ]• D I S A P P F. A R S i S5 

acteristic of a man of the world even wlicn he \'^ 
thoroughly drunk; the superiority of education over 
insti*uction. 

Count Bielowsky had drunk five times as much as 
the Professor or the pastor. But he carried his 
wine ten times better. 

"Let us leave these dnmken fellows," he said with 
disgust. "Come on, old man. Our partners are 
waiting in the gaming room." 

"Ladies and gentlemen," said the Hetman as we 
entered. "Permit me to present a new player to 
you, my friend. Lieutenant de Saint-Avit." 

"Let it go at that," he murmured in my ear. 
"They are the servants. But I like to fool myself, 
you see." 

I saw that he was very drunk indeed. 

The gaming room was very long and narrow. A 
huge table, almost level with the floor and sur- 
rounded with cushions on which a dozen natives 
were lying, was the chief article of furniture. Two 
engravings on the wall gave evidence of the hap- 
piest broadmindedness in taste; one of da Vinci's 
St. John the Baptist, and the Ma'ison des Dernieres 
Cartouches of Alphonse de Neuville. 

On the table were earthenware goblets. A heavy 
jar held palm liqueur. 

I recognized acquaintances among those present; 
my masseur, the manicure, the barber, and two or 



i86 ATLANTIDA 

three Tuareg who had lowered their veils and were 
gravely smoking long pipes. While waiting for 
something better, all were plunged in the delights of 
a card game that looked like "rams." Two of An- 
tinea's beautiful ladies in waiting, Aguida and Sydia, 
were among the number. Their smooth bistre skins 
gleamed beneath veils shot with silver. I was sorry 
not to see the red silk tunic of Tanit-Zerga. Again, 
I thought of Morhange, but only for an Instant. 

"The chips, Koukou," demanded the Hetman. 
"We are not here to amuse ourselves." 

The Zwinglian cook placed a box of many-colored 
chips in front of him. Count Bielowsky set about 
counting them and arranging them in little piles with 
infinite care. 

"The white are worth a louis," he explained to 
me. "The red, a hundred francs. The yellow, five 
hundred. The green, a thousand. Oh, it's the devil 
of a game that we play here. You will see." 

"I open with ten thousand," said the Zwinglian 
cook. 

"Twelve thousand," said the Hetman. 

"Thirteen," said Sydya with a slow smile, as she 
seated herself on the count's knee and began to ar- 
range her chips lovingly in little piles. 

"Fourteen," I said. 

"Fifteen," said the sharp voice of Rosita, the old 
manicure. 

"Seventeen," proclaimed the Hetman. 



M O R 1 1 A N G E DISAPPEARS 187 

''Twenty thousand." the cook broke in. 

He hammered on the table and, casting a defiant 
look at us, repeated: 

"I take it at twenty thousand." 

The Hetman made an impatient gesture. 

"That devil, Koukou ! You can't do anything 
against the beast. You will have to play carefully. 
Lieutenant." 

Koukou had taken his place at the end of the table. 
He threw down the cards with an air v^hich abashed 
me. 

"I told you so; the way it was at Anna Deslions'," 
the Hetman murmured proudly. 

"Make your bets, gentlemen," yelped the negro. 
"Make your bets." 

"Wait, you beast," called Bielowsky. "Don't you 
see that the glasses are empty? Here, Cacambo." 

The goblets were filled immediately by the jolly 
masseur. 

"Cut," said Koukou, addressing Sydya, the beau- 
tiful Targa who sat at his right. 

The girl cut, like one who knows superstitions, 
with her left hand. But it must be said that her 
right was busy lifting a cup to her lips. I watched 
the curve of her beautiful throat. 

"My deal," said Koukou. 

We were thus arranged: at the left, the Hetman, 
Aguida, whose waist he had encircled with the most 
aristocratic freedom, Cacambo, a Tuareg woman. 



i88 ATLANTIDA 

then two veiled negroes who were watching the game 
intently. At the right, Sydya, myself, the old mani- 
cure, Roslta, Barouf, the barber, another woman 
and two white Tuareg, grave and attentive, exactly 
opposite those on the left. 

"Give me one," said the Hetman. 

Sydya made a negative gesture. 

Koukou drew, passed a four-spot to the Hetman, 
gave himself a five. 

"Eight," announced Bielowsky. 

"Six," said pretty Sydya. 

"Seven," broke in Koukou. "One card makes up 
for another," he added coldly. 

"I double," said the Hetman. 

Cacambo and Aguida followed his example. On 
our side, we were more careful. The manicure espe- 
cially would not risk more than twenty francs at a 
time. 

"I demand that the cards be evened up," said 
Koukou imperturbably. 

"This fellow is unbearable," grumbled the count. 
"There, are you satisfied?" 

Koukou dealt and laid down a nine. 

"My country and my honor!" raged Bielowsky. 
"I had an eight." 

I had two kings, and so showed no ill temper. 
Rosita took the cards out of my hands. 

I watched Sydya at my right. Her heavy black 
hair covered her shoulders. She was really very 



i\I O R H A N G E D I S A P PEARS 1 89 

beautiful, though a bit tipsy, as were all that fan- 
tastic company. She looked at me, too, but 
with lowered eyelids, like a timid little wild 
animal. 

"Oh," I thought. "She may well be afraid. I am 
labelled 'Xo trespassing.' " 

I touched her foot. She drew it back in 
fright. 

"Who wants cards?" Koukou demanded. 

"Not I," said the Hetman. 

"Served," said Sydya. 

The cook drew^ a four. 

"Nine," he said. 

"That card was meant for me," cursed the count. 
"And five, I had a five. If only 1 had never prom- 
ised his Majesty the Emperor Napoleon III never 
to cut fives! There are times when it is hard, very 
hard. And look at that beast of a negro who plays 
Charlemagne." 

It was tnie. Koukou swept in three-quarters of 
the chips, rose with dignity, and bowed to the com- 
pany. 

"Till to-morrow, gentlemen." 

"Get along, the whole pack of you," howled the 
Hetman of Jitomir. "Stay with me. Lieutenant de 
Saint-Avit." 

When we were alone, he poured out another huge 
cupfull of liqueur. The ceiling of the room was lost 
in the gray smoke. 



I90 ATLANTIDA 

"What time is it?" I asked. 

"After midnight. But you are not going to leave 
me like this, my dear boy? I am heavy-hearted." 

He wept bitterly. The tail of his coat spread out 
on the divan behind him like the apple-green wings of 
a beetle. 

"Isn't Aguida a beauty?" he went on, still weep- 
ing. "She makes me think of the Countess de Te- 
ruel, though she is a little darker. You know the 
Countess de Tereul, Mercedes, who went in bath- 
ing nude at Biarritz, in front of the rock of the 
Virgin, one day when Prince Bismarck was standing 
on the foot-bridge. You do not remember her? 
Mercedes de Teruel." 

I shrugged my shoulders. 

"I forget; you must have been too young. Two, 
perhaps three years old. A child. Yes, a child. 
Oh, my child, to have been of that generation and 
to be reduced to playing cards with savages, ... I 
must tell you ..." 

I stood up and pushed him off. 

"Stay, stay," he implored. "I will tell you every- 
thing you want to know, how I came here, things I 
have never told anyone. Stay, I must unbosom my- 
self to a true friend. I will tell you everything, I 
repeat. I trust you. You are a Frenchman, a gen- 
tleman. I know that you will repeat nothing to her." 

"That I will repeat nothing to her? . , . To 
whom?" 



MORHANGE DISAPPEARS 191 

His voice stuck in his throat. I thought I saw a 
shudder of fear pass over hini. 

"To her ... to Antinea," he murmured. 
I sat down again. 



CHAPTER XIII 

THE HETMAN OF JITOMIR's STORY 

Count Casimir had reached that stage where 
drunkenness takes on a kind of gravity, of regret- 
fulness. 

He thought a little, then began his story. I re- 
gret that I cannot reproduce more perfectly its 
archaic flavor. 

"When the grapes begin to color in Antinea's 
garden, I shall be sixty-eight. It is very sad, my dear 
boy, to have sowed all your wild oats. It isn't true 
that life is always beginning over again. How 
bitter, to have known the Tuileries in i860, 
and to have reached the point where I am 
now! 

"One evening, just before the war (I remember 
that Victor Black was still living), some charming 
women whose names I need not disclose (I read the 
names of their sons from time to time in the society 
news of the Gaulois) expressed to me their desire 
to rub elbows with some real demt-mondatnes of the 
artist quarter. I took them to a ball at the Grande 

192 



THE HITMAN OF JITOMIR'S STOKV 193 

Chauviierc. There was a crowd of young painters, 
models, students. In the midst of the uproar, sev- 
eral couples danced the cancan till the chandeliers 
shook with it. We noticed especially a little, dark 
man, dressed In a miserable top-coat and checked 
trousers which assuredly knew the support of no 
suspenders. He was cross-eyed, with a wretched 
beard and hair as greasy as could be. He bounded 
and kicked extravagantly. The ladies called him 
Leon Gambetta. 

"What an annoyance, when T realize that I need 
only have felled this wretched lawyer with one pistol 
shot to have guaranteed perfect happiness to myself 
and to my adopted country, for, my dear fellow, I 
am French at heart, if not by birth. 

"I was born in 1829, at Warsaw, of a Polish 
father and a Russian mother. It is from her that I 
hold my title of Iletman of Jitomir. It was re- 
stored to me by Czar Alexander II on a request 
made to him on his visit to Paris, by my august mas- 
ter, the Emperor Napoleon TIT. 

"For political reasons, which I cannot describe 
without retelling the history of unfortunate Poland, 
my father. Count Bielowsky, left Warsaw in 1830, 
and went to live in London. After the death of my 
mother, he began to squander his immense fortune 
— from sorrow, he said. When, in his time, he died 
at the period of the Prichard affair, he left me barely 
a thousand pounds sterling of income, plus two or 



194 ATLANTIDA 

three systems of gaming, the Impracticability of 
which I learned later. 

"I will never be able to think of my nineteenth 
and twentieth years without emotion, for I then com- 
pletely liquidated this small inheritance. London 
was indeed an adorable spot in those days. I had a 
jolly bachelor's apartment in Piccadilly. 

" Ticcadllly ! Shops, palaces, bustle and breeze, 
The whirling of wheels and the murmur of trees.' 

"Fox hunting in a hriska, driving a buggy in Hyde 
Park, the rout, not to mention the delightful little 
parties with the light Venuses of Drury Lane, this 
took all my time. All? I am unjust. There was 
also gaming, and a sentiment of filial piety forced 
me to verify the systems of the late Count, my father. 
It was gaming which was the cause of the event I 
must describe to you, by which my life was to be so 
strangely changed. 

**My friend, Lord Malmesbury, had said to me a 
hundred times, 'I must take you to see an exquisite 
creature who lives in Oxford Street, number 277, 
Miss Howard.' One evening I went with him. It 
was the twenty-second of February, 1848. The mis- 
tress of the house was really marvelously beautiful, 
and the guests were charming. Besides Malmes- 
bury, I observed several acquaintances : Lord Cieb- 
den, Lord Chesterfield, Sir Francis Mountjoye, 



THE HITMAN Oi JUOMIR'S STORY i<>5 

Major in the Second Life Guards, and Count 
d'Orsay. They played cards and then began to 
talk politics. Events in France played the main part 
in the conversation and they discussed endlessly the 
consequences of the revolt that had broken out in 
Paris that same morning, in consequence of the inter- 
diction of the banquet in the 12th arrondissement, 
of which word had just been received by telegram. 
Up to that time, I had never bothered myself with 
public affairs. So I don't know what moved me to 
affirm with the impetuosity of my nineteen years that 
the news from FVance meant the Republic next day 
and the Empire the day after. . . . 

"The company received my sally with a discreet 
laugh, and their looks were centered on a guest who 
made the fifth at a bouillotic table where they had 
just stopped playing. 

"The guest smiled, too. He rose and came to- 
wards me. I observed that he was of middle height, 
perhaps even shorter, buttoned tightly into a blue 
frock coat, and that his eye had a far-off, dreamy 
look. 

"All the players watched this scene with delighted 
amusement. 

" 'Whom have I the honor of addressing?' he 
asked in a very gentle voice. 

" 'Count Bielowsky,' I answered coolly to show 
him that the difference in our ages was not sufficient 
to justify the interrogation. 



196 ATLANTIDA 

" 'Well, my dear Count, may your prediction in- 
deed be realized; and I hope that you will not 
neglect the Tuileries,' said the guest in the blue coat, 
with a smile. 

"And he added, finally consenting to present him- 
self: 

" 'Prince Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte.' 

"I played no active role in the coup d'etat, and I 
do not regret it. It is a principle with me that a 
stranger should not meddle with the internal affairs 
of a country. The prince understood this discretion, 
and did not forget the young man who had been of 
such good omen to him. 

"I was one of the first whom he called to the 
Elysee. My fortune was definitely established by a 
defamatory note on 'Napoleon the little.' The next 
year, when Mgr. Sibour was out of the way, I was 
made Gentleman of the Chamber, and the Emperor 
was even so kind as to have me marry the daughter 
of the Marshal Repeto, Duke of Mondovi. 

"I have no scruple in announcing that this union 
was not what it should have been. The Countess, 
who was ten years older than I, was crabbed and 
not particularly pretty. Moreover, her family had 
insisted resolutely on a marriage portion. Now I 
had nothing at this time except the twenty-five thou- 
sand pounds for my appointment as Gentleman of the 
Chamber. A sad lot for anyone on intimate terms 



THE HITMAN OF JITOMIR'S STORY 197 

witli the Count d'Orsay and the Duke of Gramont- 
Caderousse 1 Without the kindness of the Emperor, 
where would I have been? 

"One morning in the spring of 1852, I was in 
my study opening my mail. There was a letter from 
His Majesty, calling me to the Tuileries at four 
o'clock; a letter from Clementine, informing me that 
she expected me at five o'clock at her house. Clem- 
entine was the beautiful one for whom, just then, 
I was ready to commit any folly. I was so proud 
of her that, one evening at the Maison Dorce, I 
flaunted her before Prince Metternich, who was 
tremendously taken with her. All the court envied 
me that conquest; and I was morally obliged to con- 
tinue to assume its expenses. And then Clementine 
was so pretty! The Emperor himself . . . The 
other letters, good lord, the other letters were the 
bills of the dressmakers of that young person, who, 
in spite of my discreet remonstrances, insisted on 
having them sent to my conjugal dwelling. 

"There were bills for something over forty thou- 
sand francs: gowns and ball dresses from Gagelin- 
Opigez, 23 Rue de Richelieu; hats and bonnets from 
Madame Alexandrine, 14 Rue d'Antin; lingerie and 
many petticoats from Madame Pauline, 100 Rue 
de Clery; dress trimmings and gloves from the Fille 
de Lyon, 6 Rue de la Chaussee d'Antin; foulards 
from the Malle des Indes; handkerchiefs from the 



198 ATLANTIDA 

Compagnie Irlanda'ise; laces from Ferguson; cos- 
metics from Candes. . . . This whitening cream of 
Candes, in particular, overwhelmed me with stupe- 
faction. The bill showed fifty-one flasks. Six hun- 
dred and twenty-seven francs and fifty centimes' 
worth of whitening cream from Candes. . . . 
Enough to soften the skin of a squadron of a hun- 
dred guards ! 

" 'This can't keep on,' I said, putting the bills in 
my pocket. 

"At ten minutes to four, T crossed the wicket by 
the Carrousel. 

"In the Salon of the aides de camp I happened on 
Bacciochi. 

" The Emperor has the grippe,' he said to me. 
*He is keeping to his room. He has given orders 
to have you admitted as soon as you arrive. 
Come.' 

"His Majesty, dressed in a braided vest and Cos- 
sack trousers, was meditating before a window. The 
pale green of the Tuileries showed luminously under 
a gentle warm shower. 

" 'Ah ! Here he is,' said Napoleon. 'Here, have 
a cigarette. It seems that you had great doings, 
you and Gramont-Caderousse, last evening, at the 
Chateau des Fleiirs.' 

"I smiled with satisfaction. 

" 'So Your Majesty knows already . . .* 

" 'I know, I know vaguely.' 






THE HITMAN OF JITOMIR'S STORY 199 

" 'Do you know Grainont-Caderousse's last 
"mot"?' 

'No, but you are going to tell it to inc.' 
'Here goes, then. We were five or six: myself, 
Viel-Castel, Gramont, Persigny . . .' 

" 'Persigny!' said the Emperor, 'He has no right 
to associate with Gramont, after all that Paris says 
about his wife.' 

" 'Just so, Sire. Well, Persigny was excited, no 
doubt about it. He began telling us how troubled 
he was because of the Duchess's conduct.' 

" 'This Fialin isn't over tactful,' murmured the 
Emperor, 

" 'Just so, Sire. Then, does Your Majesty know 
what Gramont hurled at him?' 

"'What?' 

" 'He said to him, "Monsieur le Due, 1 forbid you 
to speak ill of my mistress before me." 

" 'Gramont goes too far,' said Napoleon with a 
dreamy smile. 

" 'That is what we all thought, including Viel- 
Castel, who was nevertheless delighted.' 

" 'Apropos of this,' said Napoleon after a silence, 
'I have forgotten to ask you for news of the Countess 
Bielowsky.' 

" 'She is very well, Sire, I thank Y'our Ma- 
jesty.' 

'And Clementine? Still the same dear child?' 
'Always, Sire. But . . .' 






200 ATLANTIDA 

" 'It seems that M. Baroche is madly in love with 
her.' 

" 'I am very much honored, Sire. But this honor 
becomes too burdensome.' 

"I had drawn from my pocket that morning's bills 
and I spread them out under the eyes of the Em- 
peror. 

"He looked at them with his distant smile. 

" 'Come, come. If that is all, I can fix that, since 
I have a favor to ask of you.' 

" *I am entirely at Your Majesty's service.' 

"He struck a gong. 

" 'Send for M. Mocquard.' 

" *I have the grippe,' he said. 'Mocquard will ex- 
plain the affair to you.' 

"The Emperor's private secretary entered. 

" 'Here is Bielowsky, Mocquard,' said Napoleon. 
'You know what I want him to do. Explain it to 
him.' 

"And he began to tap on the window-panes against 
which the rain was beating furiously. 

" 'My dear Count,' said Mocquard, taking a chair, 
'it is very simple. You have doubtless heard of a 
young explorer of promise, M. Henry Duveyrier.' 

"I shook my head as a sign of negation, very much 
surprised at this beginning. 

" 'M. Duveyrier,' continued Mocquard, 'has re- 
turned to Paris after a particularly daring trip to 
South Africa and the Sahara. M. Vivien de Saint 



THE HliMAN OV JIIOMIR'S STORY 201 

Martin, whom I ha\c seen recently has assured nie 
that the Geographical Society intends to confer its 
great gold medal upon him, in recognition of these 
exploits. In the course of his trip, M. Duvreyrier 
has entered into negotiations with the chiefs of the 
people who always have been so rebellious to His 
Majesty's armies, the Tuareg.' 

"I looked at the Emperor. My bewilderment was 
such that he began to laugh. 

" 'Listen,' he said. 

" 'M. Duveyrier,' continued Mocquard, 'was able 
to arrange to have a delegation of these chiefs come 
to Paris to present their respects to His Majesty. 
Very important results may arise from this visit, and 
His Excellency the Colonial Minister, does not de- 
spair of obtaining the signature of a treaty of com- 
merce, reserving special advantages to our fellow 
countrymen. These chiefs, five of them, among them 
Sheik Otham, Amenokol or Sultan of the Confedera- 
tion of Adzger, arrive to-morrow morning at the 
Gare de Lyon. M. Duveyrier will meet them. But 
the Emperor has thought that besides . . .' 

" 'I thought,' said Napoleon III, delighted by my 
bewilderment, 'I thought that it was correct to have 
some one of the Gentlemen of my Chamber wait 
upon the arrival of these Mussulman dignitaries. 
That is why you are here, my poor Bielowsky. 
Don't be frightened,' he added, laughing harder. 
'You will have M. Duveyrier with you. You are 



202 ATLANTIDA 

charged only with the special part of the reception: 
to accompany these princes to the lunch that I am 
giving them to-morrow at the Tuileries; then, in the 
evening, discreetly on account of their religious 
scruples, to succeed in giving them a very high idea 
of Parisian civilization, with nothing exaggerated: 
do not forget that in the Sahara they are very high 
religious dignitaries. In that respect, I have con- 
fidence in your tact and give you carte blanche. . . . 
Mocquard!' 

"'Sire?' 

" 'You will apportion on the budget, half to For- 
eign Affairs, half to the Colonies, the funds Count 
Bielowsky will need for the reception of the Tuareg 
delegation. It seems to me that a hundred thousand 
francs, to begin . . . The Count has only to tell 
you if he is forced to exceed that figure.' 

"Clementine lived on the Rue Boccador, In a little 
Moorish pavillion that I had bought for her from 
M. de Lesseps. I found her in bed. When she 
saw me, she burst into tears. 

" 'Great fools that we are!' she murmured amidst 
her sobs, 'what have we done !' 

" 'Clementine, tell me!' 

" 'What have we done, what have we done!' she 
repeated, and I felt against me, her floods of black 
hair, her warm cheek which was fragrant with eau 
de Nation. 



THE HITMAN OF JITOMIR'S STORY 203 

" 'What is it? What can it be?' 

" 'It is . . .' and she murmured something in my 
car. 

"'No!' I said, stupefied. 'Are you quite sure?' 

" 'Am I quite sure!' 

"I was thunderstruck. 

" 'You don't seem much pleased,' she said sharply. 

" 'I did not say that. . . . Though, really, I am 
very much pleased, I assure you.' 

" Prove it to me : let us spend the day together 
to-morrow.' 

"'To-morrow!' I stammered. 'Impossible!' 

" 'Why?' she demanded suspiciously. 

" 'Because to-morrow, I have to pilot the Tuareg 
mission about Paris. The Emperor's orders.' 

"'What bluff is this?' asked Clementine. 

" 'I admit that nothing so much resembles a lie as 
the truth.' 

"I retold Mocquard's story to Clementine, as well 
as I could. She listened to me with an expression 
that said: 'you can't fool me that way.* 

"Finally, furious, I burst out: 

" 'You can see for yourself. I am dining with 
them, to-morrow; and I invite you.' 

" 'I shall be very pleased to come,' said Clemen- 
tine with great dignity. 

"I admit that I lacked self-control at that minute. 
But think what a day it had been! Forty thousand 
fmncs o^ bills as soon as I woke up. The ordeal of 



204 ATLANTIDA 

escorting the savages around Paris all the next day. 
And, quite unexpectedly, the announcement of an 
approaching irregular paternity. . . . ' 

" 'After all,' I thought, as I returned to my house, 
'these are the Emperor's orders. He has com- 
manded me to give the Tuareg an Idea of Parisian 
civilization. Clementine comports herself very well 
in society and just now it would not do to aggravate 
her. I will engage a room for to-morrow at the 
Cafe de Paris, and tell Gramont-Caderousse and 
VIel-Castel to bring their silly mistresses. It will 
be very French to enjoy the attitude of these chil- 
dren of the desert In the midst of this little party.' 

"The train from Marseilles arrived at 10:20. 
On the platform I found M. Duveyrler, a young man 
of twenty-three with blue eyes and a little blond 
beard. The Tuareg fell into his arms as they de- 
scended from the train. He had lived with them for 
two years, in their tents, the devil knows where. He 
presented me to their chief. Sheik Otham, and to 
four others, splendid fellows In their blue cotton 
draperies and their amulets of red leather. For- 
tunately, they all spoke a kind of sabir * which helped 
things along. 

"I only mention in passing the lunch at the Tuil- 
erles, the visits in the evening to the Museum, to the 
Hotel de Fille, to the Imperial Printing Press. Each 

^ Dialect spoken in Algeria and the Levant — a mixture of 
Arabian, French, Italian and Spanish. 



THE HITMAN OF JITCJMIK'S STORY 205 

time, the Tuareg inscribed their names in the regis- 
try of the place they were visiting. It was intermin- 
able. To give you an idea, here is the complete 
name of Sheik Otham alone: Otham-ben-el-Hadj-el- 
Bekrl-ben-el-Hadj-el-Faqqi-ben-Mohammad - Bouya- 
ben-si-Ahmed-es-Souki-bcn-Mahmoud.* 

"And there were five of them like that! 

"I maintained my good humor, however, because 
on the boulevards, everywhere, our success was co- 
lossal. At the Cafi' de Paris, at six-thirty, it 
amounted to frenzy. The delegation, a little drunk, 
embraced me: 'Bono, Napoleon; bono, Eugenic; 
bono, Casimir; bono, Christians.' Gramont-Cade- 
rousse and Viel Castel were already in booth num- 
ber eight, with Anna Grimaldi, of the Folies Dra- 
matiques, and Hortense Schneider, both beautiful 
enough to strike terror to the heart. But the palm 
was for my dear Clementine, when she entered. I 
must tell you how she was dressed: a gown of white 
tulle, over China blue tarletan, with pleatings, and 
ruffles of tulle over the pleatings. The tulle skirt 
was caught up on each side by garlands of green 
leaves mingled with rose clusters. Thus it formed 
a valence which allowed the tarletan skirt to show 
in front and on the sides. The garlands were caught 

1 1 have succeeded in finding on the registrj' of the Imperial 
Printing Press the names of the Tuareg chiefs and those who 
accompanied them on their visit, M. Henrj' Duveyricr and the 
Count Biclowsky. ( Xotc by M. Leroux.) 



2o6 A T L A N T I D A 

up to the belt and, in the space between their 
branches, were knots of rose satin with long cnd3. 
The pointed bodice was draped with tulle, the bil- 
lowy bertha of tulle was edged with lace. By way 
of head-dress, she had placed upon her black locks 
a diadem crown of the same flowers. Two long 
leafy tendrils were twined in her hair and fell on her 
neck. As cloak, she had a kind of scarf of blue 
cashmere embroidered in gold and lined with blue 
satin. 

"So much beauty and splendor immediately moved 
the Tuareg and, especially, Clementine's right-hand 
neighbor, El-Hadj-ben-Guemama, brother of Sheik 
Otham and Sultan of Ahaggar. By the time the 
soup arrived, a bouillon of wild game, seasoned with 
Tokay, he was already much smitten. When they 
served the compote of fruits Martinique a la liqueur 
de Mme. Amphoux, he showed every indication of 
illimitable passion. The Cyprian wine de la Com- 
manderie made him quite sure of his sentiments. 
Hortense kicked my foot under the table. Gramont, 
intending to do the same to Anna, made a mistake 
and aroused the indignant protests of one of the 
Tuareg. I can safely say that when the time came 
to go to Mabnie, we were enlightened as to the man- 
ner in which our visitors respected the prohibition 
decreed by the Prophet in respect to wine. 

"At Mabille, while Clementine, Hortense, Anna, 
Ludovic and the three Tuareg gave themselves over 



THE HITMAN OF JITOMIR'S STORY 207 

to the wildest gallops, Sheik Otham took me a^idc 
and confided to me, with visible emotion, a certain 
commission with which he had just been charged 
by his brother. Sheik Ahmed. 

"The next day, very early, I reached Clementine's 
house. 

" 'My dear,' I began, after having waked her, not 
without difficulty, 'listen to me. I want to talk to 
you seriously.' 

"She rubbed her eyes a bit crossly. 

" 'How did you like that young Arabian gentle- 
man who was so taken with you last night?' 

" 'Why, well enough,' she said, blusfilng. 

" 'Do you know that in his country, he is the sov- 
ereign prince and reigns over territories five or six 
times greater than those of our august master, the 
Emperor Napoleon III?' 

" 'He murmured something of that kind to me,' 
she said, becoming interested. 

" 'Well, would it plea.e you to mount on a throne, 
like our august sovereign, the Empress Eugenie?' 

"Clementine looked startled. 

" 'His own brother. Sheik Otham, has charged 
me in his name to make this offer.' 

"Clementine, dumb with amazement, dia not re- 

plT- 

"'I, Empress!' she finally stammered. 

" 'The decision rests with you. They must have 



2o8 A T L A N T I D A 

your answer before midday. If it is 'yes,' we lunch 
together at Voisin's, and the bargain is made.' 

"I saw that she had already made up her mind, 
but she thought it well to display a little sentiment. 

" 'And you, you !' she groaned. "To leave you 
thus. . . . Never!' 

'* 'No foolishness, dear child,' I said gently. 'You 
don't know perhaps that I am ruined. Yes, com- 
pletely: I don't even know how I am going to pay 
for your complexion cream !' 

" 'Ah !' she sighed 

"She added, however, 'And . . . the child?' 

'"What child?' 

'"Our child . . . our child.' 

" 'Ah ! That is so. Why, you will nave to put it 
down to profit and loss. I am even convinced that 
Sheik Ahmed will find that it resembles him.' 

" 'You can turn everything into a joke,' she said 
between laughing and crying. 

"The next morning, at the same hour, the Mar- 
seilles express carried away the five Tuareg and 
Clementine. The young woman, radiant, was lean- 
ing on the arm of Sheik Ahmed, who was beside 
himself with joy. 

"'Have you many shops in your capital?' she 
asked him languidly. 

"And he, smiling broadly under his veil, replied: 

" 'Besef, besef, bono, roumis, bono' 



THE HITMAN OF JITOMIR'S STORY 209 

"At the last moment, Clementine had a pang of 
emotion. 

*' 'Listen, Casimir, you have always been kind to 
me. I am going to be a queen. If you weary of it 
here, promise me, swear to me . . .' 

"The Sheik had understood. He took a ring from 
his finger and slipped it onto mine. 

" 'Sidi Casimir, comrade,' he affirmed. 'You come 
— find us. Take Sidi Ahmed's ring and show it. 
Everybody at Ahaggar comrades. liono Ahaggar, 
bono.' 

"When I came out of the Garc dr Lyon, I had the 
feeling of having perpetrated an excellent joke." 

The Hetman of Jitomir was completely drunk. I 
had had the utmost difficulty in understanding the 
end of his story, because he interjected, every other 
moment, couplets from Jacques Offenbach's best 
score. 

Dans un boh passait un jeune homme, 
Un jeune homme frais et beau, 
Sa main tenait une pomme, 
Votis voyez d'ici le tableau. 

"Who was disagreeably surprised by the fall of 
Sedan? It was Casimir, poor old Casimir! Five 
thousand louis to pay by the fifth of September, and 
not the first sou, no, not the first sou. I take my hat 



2IO ATLANTIDA 

and my courage and go to the Tuilerles. No more 
Emperor there, no ! But the Empress was so kind. 
I found her alone — ah, people scatter quickly under 
such circumstances! — alone with a senator, M. 
Merimee, the only literary man I have ever known 
who was at the same time a man of the world. 
'Madame,' he was saying to her, 'you must give up 
all hope. M. Thiers, whom I just met on the Pont 
Royal, would listen to nothing.' 

" 'Madame,' I said in my turn, 'Your Majesty al- 
ways will know where her true friends are.' 

"And I kissed her hand. 

"Evohe, que les deesses 
Ont de droles de f aeons 
Pour enjoler, pour enjSler, pour enjoler les gaaar- 
Qons! 

"I returned to my home in the Rue de Lille. On 
the way I encountered the rabble going from the 
Corps Legislatif to the Hotel de Ville. My mind 
was made up. 

" 'Madame,' I said to my wife, 'my pistols.' 

'"What is the matter?' she asked, fright- 
ened. 

" 'All is lost. But there is still a chance to pre- 
serve my honor. I am going to be killed on the bar- 
ricades.' 

"'Ah! Casimir,' she sobbed, falling into my 



me 



THE HITMAN OF JITOMIR'S STORY 211 

arms. 'I have misjudged you. Will you forgive 
?' 

I forgive you, Aurelle,' I said with dignified 
emotion. 'I have not always been right myself.' 

"I tore myself away from this mad scene. It was 
six o'clock. On the Rue de Bac, I hailed a cab on Its 
mad career. 

" 'Twenty francs tip,' I said to the coachman, 'if 
you get to the Gare de Lyon in time for the Mar- 
seilles train, six thirty-seven.' " 

The Hetman of Jitomir could say no more. He 
had rolled over on the cushions and slept with 
clenched fists. 

I walked unsteadily to the great window. 

The sun was rising, pale yellow, behind the sharp 
blue mountains. 



CHAPTER XIV 



HOURS OF WAITING 



It was at night that Saint-Avit liked to tell me a 
little of his enthralling history. He gave it to me in 
short instalments, exact and chronological, never an- 
ticipating the episodes of a drama whose tragic out- 
come I knew already. Not that he wished to obtain 
more effect that way — I felt that he was far re- 
moved from any calculation of that sort! Simply 
from the extraordinary nervousness into which he 
was thrown by recalling such memories. 

One evening, the mail from France had just ar- 
rived. The letters that Chatelain had handed 
us lay upon the little table, not yet opened. By the 
light of the lamp, a pale halo in the midst of the 
great black desert, we were able to recognize the 
writing of the addresses. Oh! the victorious smile 
of Saint-Avit when, pushing aside all those letters, I 
said to him in a trembling voice: 

"Go on." 

He acquiesced without further words. 

"Nothing can give you any idea of the fever I 

212 



HOURS OF WAllJNl, 213 

was in from the day when the Ilctman of Jitomir 
told me of his ad\cnturcs to the day when I found 
myself In the presence of Antlnea. The strangest 
part was that the thought that I was, in a way, con- 
demned to death, did not enter Into this fever. On 
the contrar}', it was stimulated by my desire for the 
event which would be the signal of my downfall, the 
summons from Antinea. But this summons was not 
speedy in coming. And from this delay, arose my 
unhealthy exasperation. 

Did I have any lucid moments In the course of 
these hours? I do not think so. I do not recall 
having even said to myself, "What, aren't you 
ashamed? Captive in an unheard of situation, you 
not only are not trying to escape, but you even bless 
your servitude and look forward to your ruin." I 
did not even color my desire to remain there, to en- 
joy the next step in the adventure, by the pretext 
I might have given — unwillingness to escape without 
Morhange. If T felt a vague uneasiness at not see- 
ing him again, it was not because of a desire to know 
that he was well and safe. 

Well and safe, I knew him to be, moreover. The 
Tuareg slaves of Antinea's household were certainly 
not very communicative. The women were hardly 
more loquacious. I heard, it is tnie, from Sydya 
and Aguida, that my companion liked pomegranates 
or that he could not endure koiiskous of bananas. 
But If I asked for a different kind of Information, 



214 ATLANTIDA 

they fled, in fright, clown the long corridors. With 
Tanit-Zerga, It was different. This child seemed to 
have a distaste for mentioning before me anything 
bearing in any way upon Antinea. Nevertheless, I 
knew that she was devoted to her mistress with a 
doglike fidelity. But she maintained an obstinate 
silence if I pronounced her name or, persisting, the 
name of Morhange. 

As for the Europeans, I did not care to question 
these sinister puppets. Besides, all three were diffi- 
cult of approach. The Hetman of JItomir was sink- 
ing deeper and deeper Into alcohol. What Intelli- 
gence remained to him, he seemed to have dissolved 
the evening when he had invoked his youth for me. 
I met him from time to time in the corridors that 
had become all at once too narrow for him, hum- 
ming in a thick voice a couplet from the music of 
La Reine Hortense. 

De ma fille Isabelle 
Sots I'epoux a Vinstant, 
Car elle est la plus belle 
Et tot, le plus vaillant. 

As for Pastor Spardek, I would cheerfully have 
killed the old skinflint. And the hideous little man 
with the decorations, the placid printer of labels for 
the red marble hall, — how could I meet him without 
wanting to cry out In his face: "Eh! eh! Sir Pro- 
fessor, a very curious case of apocope : * k.r\avTLV€a 



HOURS OF WAIl'ING 215 

Suppression of alpha, of tau and of lambda! I 
would like to direct your attention to another case 
as curious: KkruxrjvT ivea, Clementine. Apocope of 
kappa, of lamba, of epsilon and of viu. If Mor- 
hange were with us, he would tell you many charm- 
ing erudite things about it. But, alas ! Morhange 
does not deign to come among us any more. We 
never see Morhange." 

My fever for information found a little more fav- 
orable reception from Rosita, the old negress mani- 
cure. Never have I had my nails polished so often 
as during those days of waiting! Now — after six- 
years — she must be dead. I shall not wrong her 
memory by recording that she was very partial to 
the bottle. The poor old soul was defenseless against 
those that I brought her and that I emptied with her, 
through politeness. 

Unlike the other slaves, who are brought from 
the South toward Turkey by the merchants of Rhat, 
she was born in Constantinople and had been brought 
into Africa by her master when he became ka'imakam 
of Rhadames. . . . But don't let me complicate this 
already wandering history by the incantations of 
this manicure. 

"Antinea," she said to me, "Is the daughter of 
El-Hadj-Ahmed-ben-Guemama, Sultan of Ahaggar, 
and Sheik of the great and noble tribe of Kel-Rhela. 
She was bom In the year twelve hundred and eighty- 
one of the Heglra. She has never wished to marry 



2i6 ATLANTIDA 

any one. Her wish has been respected for the will 
of women is sovereign in this Ahaggar where she 
rules to-day. She is a cousin of Sidi-el-Senoussi, and, 
if she speaks the word, Christian blood will flow 
from Djerid to Touat, and from Tchad to Senegal. 
If she had wished it, she might have lived beautiful 
and respected in the land of the Christians. But she 
prefers to have them come to her." 

"Cegheir-ben-Cheikh," I said, "do you know him? 
He is entirely devoted to her?" 

"Nobody here knows Cegheir-ben-Cheikh very 
well, because he is continually traveling. It is true 
that he is entirely devoted to Antinea. Cegheir-ben- 
Cheikh is a Senoussi, and Antinea is the cousin of 
the chief of the Senoussi. Besides, he owes his life 
to her. He is one of the men who assassinated the 
great Kebir Flatters. On account of that, Ikenouk- 
hen, amenokol of the Adzjer Tuareg, fearing French 
reprisals, wanted to deliver Cegheir-ben-Cheikh to 
them. When the whole Sahara turned against him, 
he found asylum with Antinea. Cegheir-ben-Cheikh 
will never forget it, for he is brave and observes the 
law of the Prophet. To thank her, he led to An- 
tinea, who was then twenty years old, three French 
officers of the first troops of occupation in Tunis. 
They are the ones who are numbered, in the red 
marble hall, i, 2, and 3." 

"And Cegheir-ben-Cheikh has always fulfilled his 
duties successfully?" 



HOURS OF WAITING 217 

"Cegheir-ben-Chcikh Is well trained, and he knows 
the vast Sahara as I know my little room at the top 
of the mountain. At first, he made mistakes. That 
is how, on his first trips, he brought back old Le 
Mesge and marabout Spardek." 

"What did Antlnea say when she saw them?" 

"Antinea? She laughed so iiard that she spared 
them. Ceghelr-ben-Cheikh was vexed to see her 
laugh so. Since then, he has never made a mis- 
take." 

"He has never made a mistake?" 

"No. I have cared for the hands and feet of all 
that he has brought here. All were young and 
handsome. But I think that your comrade, whom 
they brought to me the other day, after you were 
here, is the handsomest of all." 

"Why," I asked, turning the conversation, "why, 
since she spared them their lives, did she not free 
the pastor and M. Le Mesge?" 

"She has found them useful, it seems," said the 
old woman. "And then, whoever once enters here, 
can never leave. Otherwise, the French would soon 
be here and, when they saw the hall of red marble, 
they would massacre everybody. Besides, of all 
those whom Cegheir-ben-Cheikh has brought here, 
no one, save one, has wished to escape after seeing 
Antinea." 

"She keeps them a long time?" 

"That depends upon them and the pleasure that 



2i8 ATLANTIDA 

she takes in them. Two months, three months, on 
the average. It depends. A big Belgian officer, 
formed like a colossus, didn't last a week. On the 
other hand, everyone here remembers little Douglas 
Kaine, an English officer: she kept him almost a 
year." 

"And then?" 

"And then, he died," said the old woman as if 
astonished at my question. 

"Of whaf- did he die?" 

She used the same phrase as M. Le Mesge: 

"Like all the others : of love. 

"Of love," she continued. "They all die of love 
when they see that their time is ended, and that 
Cegheir-ben-Cheikh has gone to find others. Sev- 
eral have died quietly with tears in their great eyes. 
They neither ate nor slept any more. A French 
naval officer went mad. All night, he sang a sad 
song of his native country, a song which echoed 
through the whole mountain. Another, a Spaniard, 
was as if maddened: he tried to bite. It was neces- 
sary to kill him. Many have died of kif, a kif 
that Is more violent than opium. When they no 
longer have Antinea, they smoke, smoke. Most 
have died that way . . . the happiest. Little Kaine 
died differently." 

"How did little Kaine die?" 

"In a way that pained us all very much. I told 
you that he stayed longer among us than anyone 



HOURS OF WAITING 219 

else. We had become used to him. In Antinea's 
room, on a little Kairoun table, painled in blue and 
gold, there is a gong with a long silver hammer with 
an ebony handle, very heavy. Aguida told me about 
it. When Antinea gave little Kaine his dismissal, 
smihng as she always does, he stopped in front of 
her, mute, very pale. She struck the gong for some- 
one to take him away. A Targa slave came. But 
little Kaine had leapt for the hammer, and the Targa 
lay on the ground with his skull smashed. Antinea 
smiled all the time. They led little Kaine to his 
room. The same night, eluding guards, he jumped 
out of his window at a height of two hundred feet. 
The workmen in the embalming room told me that 
they had the greatest difficulty with his body. But 
they succeeded very well. You have only to go see 
for yourself. He occupies niche num.ber 26 in the 
red marble hall." 

The old woman drowned her emotion in her glass. 

"Two days before," she continued, "I had done 
his nails, here, for this was his room. On the wall, 
near the window, he had written something in the 
stone with his knife. See, it is still here." 

"Was it not Fate, that on this July midnight . . ." 

At any other moment, that verse, traced in the 
stone of the window through which the English 
officer had hurled himself, would have killed me with 
overpowering emotion. But just then, another 
thought was in my heart. 



220 ATLANTIDA 

"Tell me," I said, controlling my voice as well as 
I could, "v. hen Antlnea holds one of us In her power, 
she shuts him up near her, does she not? Nobody 
sees him any more?" 

The old woman shook her head. 

"She is not afraid that he will escape. The 
mountain is well guarded. Antinea has only to strike 
her silver gong; he will be brought back to her im- 
mediately." 

"But my companion. I have not seen him since 
she sent for him. . . ." 

The negress smiled comprehendingly. 

"If you have not seen him, it is because he pre- 
fers to remain near her. Antinea does not force 
him to. Neither does she prevent him." 

I struck my fist violently upon the table. 

"Get along with you, old fool. And be quick 
about it!" 

Rosita fled frightened, hardly taking time to col- 
lect her little instruments. 

"Was it not Fate, that on this July midnight . . ." 

I obeyed the negress's suggestion. Following the 
corridors, losing my way, set on the right road again 
by the Reverend Spardek, I pushed open the door 
of the red marble hall. I entered. 

The freshness of the perfumed crypt did me good. 
No place can be so sinister that it is not, as it were, 
purified by the murmur of running water. The cas- 
cade, gurgling in the middle hall, comforted me. 



HOURS OF WAITING 221 

One day before an attack I was lying with my section 
in deep grass, waiting for the moment, the blast of 
the bugle, which would demand that wc leap for- 
ward into the hail of bullets. A stream was at my 
feet. I listened to its fresh rippling. I admired the 
play of light and shade in the transparent water, the 
little beasts, the little black fish, the green grass, the 
yellow wrinkled sand . . . The mystery of water 
always has carried me out of myself. 

Here, in this magic hall, my thoughts were held 
by the dark cascade. It felt friendly. It kept 
me from faltering in the midst of these rigid 
evidences of so many monstrous sacrifices. . . . 
Number 26. It was he all right. Lieutenant 
Douglas Kaine, born at Edinburgh, September 21, 
1862. Died at Ahaggar, July 16, 1890. Twenty- 
eight. He w^asn't even twenty-eight 1 His face was 
thin under the coat of orichalch. His mouth sad 
and passionate. It was certainly he. Poor young- 
ster. — Edinburgh, — I knew Edinburgh, without ever 
having been there. From the wall of the castle you 
can see the Pentland hills. "Look a little lower 
down," said Stevenson's sweet Miss Flora to Anne 
of Saint- Yves, "look a little lower down and you will 
see, in the fold of the hill, a clump of trees and a 
curl of smoke that rises from among them. That is 
Swanston Cottage, where my brother and I live with 
my aunt. If it really pleases you to see it, I shall be 
glad." When he left for Darfour, Douglas Kaine 



222 ATLANTIDA 

must surely have left in Edinburgh a Miss Flora, as 
blonde as Saint-Yves' Flora. But what are these 
shps of girls beside Antinea ! Kaine, however sen- 
sible a mortal, however made for this kind of love, 
had loved otherwise. He was dead. And here was 
number 27, on account of whom Kaine dashed him- 
self on the rocks of the Sahara, and who, in his turn, 
is dead also. 

To die, to love. How naturally the word resound- 
ed in the red marble hall. How Antinea seemed to 
tower above that circle of pale statues ! Does love, 
then, need so much death in order that it may be mul- 
tiplied? Other women, in other parts of the world, 
are doubtless as beautiful as Antinea, more beauti- 
ful perhaps. I hold you to witness that I have not 
said much about her beauty. Why then, this obses- 
sion, this fever, this consumption of all my being? 
Why am I ready, for the sake of pressing this quiv- 
ering form within my arms for one instant, to face 
things that I dare not think of for fear I should 
tremble before them? 

Here is number 53, the last. Morhange will be 
54. I shall be 55. In six months, eight, perhaps, — 
what difference anyway? — I shall be hoisted into 
this niche, an image without eyes, a dead soul, a 
finished body. 

I touched the heights of bliss, of exaltation 
that can be felt. What a child I was, just now! 
I lost my temper with a negro manicure. I was 



HOURS OF WAITING 223 

jealous of Morhange, on my word ! Wh'*' not, 
since 1 was at it, be jealous of those here nresent; 
then of the others, the absent, who will come, 
one by one, to fill the black circle of the still empty 
niches. . . . Morhange, I know, is at this moment 
with Antinea, and it is to me a bitter and splendid 
joy to think of his joy. But some evening, in three 
months, four perhaps, the embalmers will come here. 
Niche 54 will receive its prey. Then a Targa slave 
will advance toward me. I shall shiver with superb 
ecstacy. He will touch my arm. And it will be my 
turn to penetrate into eternity by the bleeding door 

of love. 

***** 

When I emerged from my meditation, I found 
myself back in the library, where the falling night 
obscured the shadows of the people who were as- 
sembled there. 

I recognized M. Le Mesge, the Pastor, the Het- 
man, Aguida, two Tuareg slaves, still more, all join- 
ing in the most animated conference. 

I drew nearer, astonished, even alarmed to see 
together so many people who ordinarily felt no kind 
of sympathy for each other. 

An unheard of occurrence had thrown all the peo- 
ple of the mountain into uproar. 

Two Spanish explorers, come from Rio de Oro, 
had been seen to the West, in Adhar Ahnet. 

As soon as Cegheir-ben-Cheikh was in- 



224 ATLANTIDA 

formed, he had prepared to go to meet them. 

At that instant he had received the order to do 
nothing. 

Henceforth it was impossible to doubt. 

For the first time, Antinea was in love. 



CHAPTER XV 

THE LAMENT OF TANIT-ZERGA 

"Arraou, arraou." 

I roused myself vaguely from the half sleep to 
which I had finally succumbed. I half opened my 
eyes. Immediately I flattened back. 

''Arraour 

Two feet from my face was the muzzle of King 
Hiram, yellow with a tracery of black. The leopard 
was helping me to wake up; otherwise he took little 
interest, for he yawned; his dark red jaws, beautiful 
gleaming white fangs, opened and closed lazily. 

At the same moment I heard a burst of laughter. 

It was little Tanit-Zerga. She was crouching on 
a cushion near the divan where I was stretched out, 
curiously watching my close interview with the 
leopard. 

"King Hiram was bored," she felt obliged to ex- 
plain to me. "I brought him." 

"How nice," I growled. "Only tell me, could he 
not have gone somewhere else to be amused?" 

"He is all alone now," said the girl. "They have 
225 



226 ATLANTIDA 

sent him away. He made too much noise when he 
played." 

These words recalled me to the events of the 
previous evening. 

"If you like, I will make him go away," said 
Tanit-Zerga. 

"No, let him alone." 

I looked at the leopard with sympathy. Our com- 
mon misfortune brought us together. 

I even caressed his rounded forehead. King 
Hiram showed his contentment by stretching out at 
full length and uncurling his great amber claws. The 
mat on the floor had much to suffer. 

"Gale is here, too," said the little girl. 

"Gale I Who may he be?" 

At the same time, I saw on Tanit-Zerga's knees 
a strange animal, about the size of a big cat, with 
flat ears, and a long muzzle. Its pale gray fur was 
rough. 

It was watching me with queer little pink 
eyes. 

"It is my mongoose," explained Tanit-Zerga. 

"Come now," I said sharply, "is that all?" 

I must have looked so crabbed and ridiculous that 
Tanit-Zerga began to laugh. I laughed, too. 

"Gale is my friend," she said when she was seri- 
ous again. "I saved her life. It was when she was 
quite little. I will tell you about it some day. See 
how good-natured she is." 



THE LAMENT OF TANIT-ZERGA 227 

So saying, she dropped the mongoose on my 
knees. 

"It is very nice of you, Tanit-Zerga," I said, "to 
come and pay me a visit." I passed my hand slowly 
over the animal's back. "What time is it now?" 

"A little after nine. See, the sun is already high. 
Let me draw the shade." 

The room was in darkness. Gale's eyes grew red- 
der. King Hiram's became green. 

"It is very nice of you," I repeated, pursuing my 
idea. "I see that you are free to-day. You never 
came so early before." 

A shade passed over the girl's forehead. 

"Yes, I am free," she said, almost bitterly. 

I looked at Tanit-Zerga more closely. For the 
first time I realized that she was beautiful. Her 
hair, which she wore falling over her shoulders, was 
not so much curly as it was gently waving. Her fea- 
tures were of remarkable fineness: the nose very 
straight, a small mouth with delicate lips, a strong 
chin. She was not black, but copper colored. Her 
slender graceful body had nothing in common with 
the disgusting thick sausages which the carefully 
cared for bodies of the blacks become. 

A large circle of copper made a heav^ decoration 
around her forehead and hair. She had four brace- 
lets, still heavier, on her wrists and anklets, and, for 
clothing, a green silk tunic, slashed in points, braided 
with gold. Green, bronze, gold. 



228 ATLANTIDA 

"You are a Sonrhai", Tanit-Zerga?" I asked 
gently. 

She replied with almost ferocious pride : 

"I am a Sonrhai." 

"Strange little thing," I thought. 

Evidently this was a subject on which Tanit- 
Zerga did not intend the conversation to turn. I re- 
called how, almost painfully, she had pronounced 
that "they," when she had told me how they had 
driven away King Hiram. 

"I am a Sonrhai," she repeated. "I was born at 
Gao, on the Niger, the ancient Sonrhai capital. My 
fathers reigned over the great Mandigue Empire. 
You need not scorn me because I am here as a 
slave." 

In a ray of sunlight. Gale, seated on his little 
haunches, washed his shining mustaches with his 
forepaws; and King Hiram, stretched out on the 
mat, groaned plaintively in his sleep. 

"He is dreaming," said Tanit-Zerga, a finger on 
her lips. 

There was a moment of silence. Then she said: 

"You must be hungry. And I do not think that 
you will want to eat with the others." 

I did not answer. 

"You must eat," she continued. "If you like, I 
will go get something to eat for you and me. I will 
bring King Hiram's and Gale's dinner here, too. 
When you are sad, you should not stay alone." 



THE LAMENT OF TANIT-ZERGA 229 

And the little green and gold fairy vanished, with- 
out waiting for my answer. 

That was how my friendship with Tanit-Zerga 
began. Each morning she came to my room with 
the two beasts. She rarely spoke to me of Antinea, 
and when she did, it was always indirectly. The 
question that she saw ceaselessly hovering on my 
lips seemed to be unbearable to her, and I felt her 
avoiding all the subjects towards which I, myself, 
dared not direct the conversation. 

To make sure of avoiding them, she prattled, 
prattled, prattled, like a nervous little parokeet. 

I was sick and this Sister of Charity in green and 
bronze silk tended me with such care as never was 
before. The two wild beasts, the big and the little, 
were there, each side of my couch, and, during my 
delirium, I saw their mysterious, sad eyes fixed on 
me. 

In her melodious voice, Tanit-Zerga told me won- 
derful stories, and among them, the one she thought 
most wonderful, the story of her life. 

It was not till much later, very suddenly, that I 
realized how far this little barbarian had penetrated 
into my own life. Wherever thou art at this hour, 
dear little girl, from whatever peaceful shores thou 
watchest my tragedy, cast a look at thy friend, par- 
don him for not having accorded thee, from the very 
first, the gratitude that thou deservedest so richly. 

"I remember from my childhood," she said, "the 



230 ATLANTIDA 

vision of a yellow and rose-colored sun rising 
through the morning mists over the smooth waves of 
a great river, 'the river where there is water,' the 
Niger, it was. . . . But you are not listening to me." 

"I am listening to you, I swear it, little Tanit- 
Zerga." 

"You are sure I am not wearying you ? You want 
me to go on?" 

"Go on, little Tanit-Zerga, go on." 

"Well, with my little companions, of whom I was 
very fond, I played at the edge of the river where 
there is water, under the jujube trees, brothers of 
the zeg-zeg, the spines of which pierced the head of 
your prophet and which we call 'the tree of Para- 
dise' because our prophet told us that under it 
would live those chosen of Paradise;^ and which is 
sometimes so big, so big, that a horseman cannot tra- 
verse its shade in a century. 

"There we wove beautiful garlands with mimosa, 
the pink flowers of the caper bush and white cockles. 
Then we threw them in the green water to ward off 
evil spirits; and we laughed like mad things when a 
great snorting hippopotamus raised his swollen head 
and we bombarded him in glee until he had to plunge 
back again with a tremendous splash. 

"That was in the mornings. Then there fell on 

Gao the deathlike lull of the red siesta. When that 

1 The Koran, Chapter 66, verse 17. (Note by M. Leroux.) 



THE LAMENT OF TANIT-ZERGA ^231 

was finished, we came back to the edf^e of the river 
to see the enormous crocodiles with bronze gopglc- 
eyes creep along little by little, among the clouds of 
mosquitoes and day-flies on the banks, and work their 
way traitorously into the yellow ooze of the mud 
flats. 

"Then we bombarded them, as we had done the 
hippopotamus in the morning; and to fete the sun 
setting behind the black branches of the douldouls, 
we made a circle, stamping our feet, then clapping 
our hands, as we sang the SonrhaT hymn. 

"Such were the ordinary' occupations of free little 
girls. But you must not think that we were only 
frivolous; and I will tell you, if you like, how I, who 
am talking to you, I saved a French chieftain who 
must be vastly greater than yourself, to judge by 
the number of gold ribbons he had on his white 
sleeves. 

"Tell me, little Tanit-Zerga," I said, my eyes else- 
where. 

"You have no right to smile," she said a little 
aggriev^ed, "and to pay no attention to me. But never 
mind! It is for myself that I tell these things, for 
the sake of recollection. Above Gao, the Niger 
makes a bend. There is a little promontory In the 
river, thickly covered with large gum trees. It was 
an evening in August and the sun was sinking. Not 
a bird in the forest but had gone to rest, motionless 
until the morning. Suddenly we heard an unfamiliar 



232 ATLANTIDA 

noise In the west, boum-boum, boum-boum, boum- 
baraboum, boum-boum, growing louder — ^boum- 
boum, boum-baraboum — and, suddenly, there was 
a great flight of water birds, aigrettes, pelicans, 
wild ducks and teal, which scattered over the gum 
trees, followed by a column of black smoke, which 
was scarcely flurried by the breeze that was spring- 
ing up. 

"It was a gunboat, turning the point, sending out 
a wake that shook the overhanging bushes on each 
side of the river. One could see that the red, white 
and blue flag on die stern had drooped till it was 
dragging in the water, so heavy was the evening. 

"She stopped at the little point of land. A small 
boat was let down, manned by two native soldiers 
who rowed, and three chiefs who soon leapt ashore. 

"The oldest, a French marabout, with a great 
white burnous, who knew our language marvelously, 
asked to speak to Sheik Sonni-Azkia. When my 
father advanced and told him that it was he, the 
marabout told him that the commandant of the Club 
at Timbuctoo was very angry, that a mile from there 
the gunboat had run on an invisible pile of logs, that 
she had sprung a leak and that she could not so con- 
tinue her voyage towards Ansango. 

"My father replied that the French who pro- 
tected the poor natives against the Tuareg were wel- 
come : that it was not from evil design, but for fish 
that they had built the barrage, and that he put all 



THE LAMENT OF TANIT-ZERGA 233 

the resources of Gao, including the forge, at the dis- 
position of the French chief, for repairing the gun- 
boat. 

"While they were talking, the French chief looked 
at me and I looked at him. He was already middle- 
aged, tall, with shoulders a little bent, and blue eyes 
as clear as the stream whose name I bear. 

*' 'Come here, little one,' he said in his gentle 
voice. 

" 'I am the daughter of Sheik Sonni-Azkia, and 
I do only what I wish,' I replied, vexed at his in- 
formality. 

*' 'You are right,' he answered smiling, 'for you 
are pretty. Will you give me the flowers that you 
have around your neck?' 

"It was a great necklace of purple hibiscus. I 
held it out to him. He kissed me. The peace was 
made. 

"Meantime, under the direction of my father, the 
native soldiers and strong men of the tribe had 
hauled the gunboat into a pocket of the river. 

" 'There is work there for all day to-morrow, 
Colonel,' said the chief mechanic, after inspecting 
the leaks. 'We won't be able to get away before 
the day after to-morrow. And, if we're to do that, 
these lazy soldiers mustn't loaf on the job.* 

" 'What an awful bore,' groaned my new friend. 

"But his ill-humor did not last long, so ardently 
did my little companions and I seek to distract him. 



234 ATLANTIDA 

He listened to our most beautiful songs; and, to 
thank us, made us taste the good things that had 
been brought from the boat for his dinner. He 
slept in our great cabin, which my father gave up 
to him; and for a long time, before I went to sleep, 
I looked through the cracks of the cabin where I 
lay with my mother, at the lights of the gunboat 
trembling in red ripples on the surface of the dark 
waves. 

"That night, I had a frightful dream. I saw my 
friend, the French officer, sleeping in peace, while 
a great crow hung croaking above his head: 'Caw 
— caw — the shade of the gum trees of Gao — caw, 
caw — will avail nothing to-morrow night — caw, 
caw — to the white chief nor to his escort* 

"Dawn had scarcely begun, when I went to find 
the native soldiers. They were stretched out on the 
bridge of the gunboat, taking advantage of the fact 
that the whites were still sleeping, to do nothing. 

"I approached the oldest one and spoke to him 
with authority: 

" 'Listen, I saw the black crow in a dream last 
night. He told me that the shade of the gum trees 
of Gao would be fatal to your chief in the coming 
night! . . .* 

"And, as they all remained motionless, stretched 
out, gazing at the sky, without even seeming to have 
heard, I added: 



THE LAMENT OF TANIT-ZERGA 235 

•* 'And to his escort!' 

It was the hour when the sun was highest, and the 
Colonel was eating In the cabin with the other 
Frenchmen, when the chief mechanic entered. 

*' 'I don't know what has come over tiie natives. 
They are working like angels. If they keep on this 
way, Colonel, we shall be able to leave this evening.' 

" 'Very good,' said the Colonel, 'but don't let 
them spoil the job by too much haste. We don't 
have to be at Ansango before the end of the week. 
It will be better to start in the morning.' 

"I trembled. Suppliantly I approached and told 
him the story of my dream. He listened with a smile 
of astonishment; then, at the last, he said gravely: 

" 'It is agreed, little Tanit-Zerga. We will leave 
this evening If you wish It.' 

"And he kissed me. 

"The darkness had already fallen when the gun- 
boat, now repaired, left the harbor. My friend 
stood in the midst of the group of Frenchmen who 
waved their caps as long as we could see them. 
Standing alone on the rickety jetty, I waited, watch- 
ing the water flow by, until the last sound of the 
steam-driven vessel, boum-baraboum, had died away 
Into the night.* 

^ Cf. the records and the Bulletin de la Sociile de Geogra- 
phie de Paris (1897) for the cruises on the Niger, made by the 
Commandant of the Timbuctoo region, Colonel Joffre, Lieu- 
tenants Baudry and Bluset. and by Father Hacquart of the 
White Fathers. (Note by M. Leroux.) 



236 ATLANTIDA 

Tanit-Zerga paused. 

"That was the last night of Gao. While I was 
sleeping and the moon was still high above the forest, 
a dog yelped, but only for an instant. Then came 
the cry of men, then of women, the kind of cry that 
you can never forget if you have once heard it. 
When the sun rose, it found me, quite naked, run- 
ning and stumbling towards the north with my little 
companions, beside the swiftly moving camels of the 
Tuareg who escorted us. Behind, followed the 
women of the tribe, my mother among them, two 
by two, the yoke upon their necks. There were not 
many men. Almost all lay with their throats cut 
under the ruins of the thatch of Gao beside my 
father, brave Sonni-Azkia. Once again Gao had 
been razed by a band of Awellimiden, who had come 
to massacre the French on their gunboat. 

"The Tuareg hurried us, hurried us, for they 
were afraid of being pursued. We traveled thus 
for ten days; and, as the millet and hemp disap- 
peared, the march became more frightful. Finally, 
near Isakeryen, in the country of Kidal, the Tuareg 
sold us to a caravan of Trarzan Moors who were 
going from Bamrouk to Rhat. At first, because they 
went more slowly, it seemed good fortune. But, be- 
fore long, the desert was an expanse of rough peb- 
bles, and the women began to fall. As for the men, 
the last of them had died far back under the blows 
of the stick for having refused to go farther. 



THE LAMENT OF TANIT-ZERGA 237 

"I still had the strength to keep going, and even 
as far in the lead as possible, so as not to hear the 
cries of my little playmates. Each time one of them 
fell by the way, unable to rise again, they saw one 
of the drivers descend from his camel and drag her 
into the bushes a little way to cut her throat. But 
one day, I heard a cry that made me turn around. 
It was my mother. She was kneeling, holding out 
her poor arms to me. In an instant I was beside 
her. But a great Moor, dressed in white, separated 
us. A red moroccan case hung around his neck from 
a black chaplet. He drew a cutlass from it. I can 
still see the blue steel on the brown skin. Another 
horrible cry. An instant later, driven by a club, I 
was trotting ahead, swallowing my little tears, try- 
ing to regain my place in the caravan. 

"Near the wells of Asiou, the Moors were at- 
tacked by a party of Tuareg of Kel-Tazeholet, serfs 
of the great tribe of Kel-Rhela, which rules over 
Ahaggar. They, in their turn, were massacred to the 
last man. That is how I was brought here, and of- 
fered as homage to Antinea, who was pleased with 
me and ever since has been kind to me. That is why 
it is no slave who soothes your fev^er to-day with 
stories that you do not even listen to, but the last 
descendant of the great Sonrha'f Emperors, of Sonnl- 
Ali, the destroyer of men and of countries, of Mo- 
hammed Azkia, who made the pilgrimage to Mecca, 
taking with him fifteen hundred cavaliers and three 



238 ATLANTIDA 

hundred thousand mithkal of gold in the days when 
our power stretched without rival from Chad to 
Touat and to the western sea, and when Gao raised 
her cupola, sister of the sky, above the other cities, 
higher above her rival cupolas -than is the tamarisk 
above the humble plants of sorghum." 



CHAPTER XVI 

THE SILVER HAMMER 



Je ne m'cn defends plus et je nc veux qu' aller 
Reconnaitre la place ou je dots I'immoler. 

(Andromaque.) 



It was this sort of a night when what I am going 
to tell you now happened. Toward five o'clock the 
sky clouded over and a sense of the coming storm 
trembled in the stifling air. 

I shall always remember it. It was the fifth of 
January, 1897. 

King Hiram and Gale lay heavily on the matting 
of my room. Leaning on my elbows beside Tanit- 
Zerga in the rock-hewn window, I spied the advance 
tremors of lightning. 

One by one they rose, streaking the now total 
darkness with their bluish stripes. But no burst of 
thunder followed. The storm did not attain the 
peaks of Ahaggar. It passed without breaking, leav- 
ing us in our gloomy bath of sweat. 

"I am going to bed," said Tanit-Zerga. 

I have said that her room was above mine. Its 

239 



240 ATLANTIDA 

bay window was some thirty feet above that before 
which I lay. 

She took Gale in her arms. But King Hiram 
would have none of it. Digging his four paws into 
the matting, he whined in anger and uneasiness, 

"Leave him," I finally said to Tanit-Zerga. "For 
once he may sleep here." 

So it was that this little beast incurred his large 
share of responsibility in the events which followed. 

Left alone, I became lost in my reflections. The 
night was black. The whole mountain was shrouded 
in silence. 

It took the louder and louder growls of the leop- 
ard to rouse me from my meditation. 

King Hiram was braced against the door, digging 
at it with his drawn claws. He, who had refused 
to follow Tanit-Zerga a while ago, now wanted to 
go out. He was determined to go out. 

"Be still," I said to him. "Enough of that. Lie 
down !" 

I tried to pull him away from the door. 

I succeeded only in getting a staggering blow from 
his paw. 

Then I sat down on the divan. 

My quiet was short. "Be honest with yourself," 
I said. "Since Morhange abandoned you, since the 
day when you saw Antinea, you have had only one 
idea. What good is it to beguile yourself with the 
stories of Tanit-Zerga, charming as they are? This 



THE SILVER H A M M I- R 241 

leopard is a pretext, perhaps a guide. Oh, you know 
that mysterious things arc going to happen to-night. 
How have you been able to keep from doing any- 
thing as long as this?" 

Immediately I made a resolve. 

"If I open the door," I thought, "King Hiram 
will leap down the corridor and I shall have great 
difficulty in following him. I must find some other 
way. 

The shade of the window was worked by means 
of a small cord. I pulled it down. Then I tied it 
into a firm leash which I fastened to the metal collar 
of the leopard. 

I half opened the door. 

"There, now you can go. But quietly, quietly." 

I had all the trouble in the world to curb the ardor 
of King Hiram who dragged me along the shadowy 
labyrinth of corridors. It was shortly before nine 
o'clock, and the rose-colored night lights were al- 
most burned out in the niches. Now and then, we 
passed one which was casting its last flickers. What 
a labyrinth! I realized that from here on I would 
not recognize the way to her room. I could only 
follow the leopard. 

At first furious, he gradually became used to tow- 
ing me. He strained ahead, belly to the ground, 
with snuffs of joy. 

Nothing is more like one black corridor than an- 
otlier black corridor. Doubt seized me. Suppose 



242 ATLANTIDA 

I should suddenly find myself in the baccarat room ! 
But that was unjust to King Hiram. Barred too 
long from the dear presence, the good beast was 
taking me exactly where I wanted him to take me. 

Suddenly, at a turn, the darkness ahead lifted. 
A rose window, faintly glimmering red and green, 
appeared before us. 

The leopard stopped with a low growl before the 
door in which the rose window was cut. 

I recognized it as the door through which the 
white Targa had led me the day after my arrival, 
when I had been set upon by King Hiram, when I 
had found myself in the presence of Antinea. 

"We are much better friends to-day," I said, flat- 
tering him so that he would not give a dangerously 
loud growl. 

I tried to open the door. The light, coming 
through the window, fell upon the floor, green and 
red. 

A simple latch, which I turned. I shortened the 
leash to have better control of King Hiram who was 
getting nervous. 

The great room where I had seen Antinea for 
the first time was completely dark. But the garden 
on which it gave shone under a clouded moon, in a 
sky weighted down with the storm which did not 
break. Not a breath of air. The lake gleamed like 
a sheet of pewter. 

I seated myself on a cushion, holding the leopard 



THE SILVER HAMMER 243 

firmly between my knees. He was purring with im- 
patience. I was thinking. Not about my goal. For 
a long time that had been fixed. But about the 
means. 

Then, I seemed to hear a distant murmur, a faint 
sound of voices. 

King Hiram growled louder, struggled. I gave 
him a little more leash. He began to rub along the 
dark walls on the sides whence the voices seemed 
to come. I followed him, stumbling as quietly as I 
could among the scattered cushions. 

My eyes, become accustomed to the darkness, 
could see the pyramid of cushions on which Antinea 
had first appeared to me. 

Suddenly I stumbled. The leopard had stopped. 
I realized that I had stepped on his tail. Brave 
beast, he did not make a sound. 

Groping along the wall, I felt a second door. 
Quietly, very quietly, I opened it as I had opened 
the preceding one. The leopard whimpered feebly. 

"King Hiram," I murmured, "be quiet." 

And I put my arms about his powerful neck. 

I felt his warm wet tongue on my hands. His 
flanks quivered. He shook with happiness. 

In front of us, lighted in the center, another room 
opened up. In the middle six men were squatting on 
the matting, playing dice and drinking coffee from 
tiny copper coffee cups with long stems. 

They were the white Tuareg. 



244 ATLANTIDA 

A lamp, hung from the ceiling, threw a circle of 
light over them. Everything outside that circle was 
in deep shadow. 

The black faces, the copper cups, the white robes, 
the moving light and shadow, made a strange etch- 
ing. 

They played with a reserved dignity, announcing 
the throws in raucous voices. 

Then, slowly, very slowly, I slipped the leash from 
the collar of the impatient little beast. 

"Go, boy." 

He leapt with a sharp yelp. 

And what I had foreseen happened. 

The first bound of King Hiram carried him into 
the midst of the white Tuareg, sowing confusion in 
the bodyguard. Another leap carried him into the 
shadow again. I made out vaguely the shaded open- 
ing of another corridor on the side of the room oppo- 
site where I was standing. 

"There !" I thought. 

The confusion in the room was indescribable, but 
noiseless. One realized the restraint which near- 
ness to a great presence imposed upon the exasper- 
ated guards. The stakes and the dice-boxes had 
rolled in one direction, the copper cups, in the other. 

Two of the Tuareg, doubled up with pain, were 
rubbing their ribs with low oaths. 

I need not say that I profited by this silent con- 
fusion to glide into the room. I was now flattened 



THE SILVER 1 1 A M M E K 245 

against the wall of the second corridor, down which 
King Hiram had just disappeared. 

At that moment a clear gong echoed in the silence. 
The trembling which seized the Tuareg assured me 
that I had chosen the right way. 

One of the six men got up. He passed me and I 
fell in behind him. I was perfectly calm. My least 
movement was perfectly calculated. 

"All that I risk here nows" I said to myself, "is 
being led back politely to my room." 

The Targa lifted a curtain. I followed on his 
heels into the chamber of Antinea. 

The room was huge and at once well lighted and 
very dark. While the right half, where Antinea 
w^as, gleamed under shaded lamps, the left was dim. 

Those w^ho have penetrated into a Mussulman 
home know what a gu'ignol is, a kind of square niche 
in the wall, four feet from the floor, its opening cov- 
ered by a curtain. One mounts to it by wooden 
steps. I noticed such a guignol at my left. I crept 
into it. My pulses beat in the shadow. But I was 
calm, quite calm. 

There I could see and hear everything. 

I was in Antinea's chamber. There was nothing 
singular about the room, except the great luxury of 
the hangings. The ceiling was in shadow, but multi- 
colored lanterns cast a vague and gentle light over 
gleaming stuffs and furs. 

Antinea was stretched out on a lion's skin, smok- 



246 ATLANTIDA 

ing. A little silver tray and pitcher lay beside her. 
King Hiram was flattened out at her feet, licking 
them madly. 

The Targa slave stood rigid before her, one 
hand on his heart, the other on his forehead, 
saluting. 

Antinea spoke in a hard voice, without looking 
at the man. 

"Why did you let the leopard pass? I told you 
that I wanted to be alone." 

"He knocked us over, mistress," said the Targa 
humbly. 

"The doors were not closed, then?" 

The slave did not answer. 

"Shall I take him away?" he asked. 

And his eyes, fastened upon King Hiram who 
stared at him maliciously, expressed well enough his 
desire for a negative reply. 

"Let him stay since he is here," said Antinea. 

She tapped nervously on the little silver tray. 

"What is the captain doing?" she asked. 

"He dined a while ago and seemed to enjoy his 
food," the Targa answered. 

"Has he said nothing?" 

"Yes, he asked to see his companion, the other 
officer." 

Antinea tapped the little tray still more rapidly. 

"Did he say nothing else?" 

"No, mistress," said the man. 



THE SILVER HAMMER 247 

A pallor overspread the Atlantide's little fore- 
head. 

"Go get him," she said brusquely. 

Bowing, the Targa left the room. 

I listened to this dialogue with great anxiety. Was 
this Morhange? Had he been faithful to me, after 
all? Had I suspected him unjustly? He had 
wanted to see me and been unable to! 

My eyes never left Antinea's. 

She was no longer the haughty, mocking princess 
of our first interview. She no longer wore the golden 
circlet on her forehead. Not a bracelet, not a ring. 
She was dressed only in a full flowing tunic. Her 
black hair, unbound, lay in masses of ebony over her 
slight shoulders and her bare arms. 

Her beautiful eyes were deep circled. Her di- 
vine mouth drooped. I did not know whether I was 
glad or sorry to see this new quivering Cleopatra. 

Flattened at her feet, King Hiram gazed submis- 
sively at her. 

An immense orichalch mirror with golden reflec- 
tions was set into the wall at the right. Suddenly 
she raised herself erect before it. I saw her nude. 

A splendid and bitter sight! — A woman who 
thinks herself alone, standing before her mirror in 
expectation of the man she wishes to subdue ! 

The six incense-burners scattered about the room 
sent up invisible columns of perfume. The balsam 
spices of Arabia wore floating webs in which my 



248 ATLANTIDA 

shameless senses were entangled. . . . And, back 
toward me, standing straight as a lily, Antinea 
smiled into her mirror. 

Low steps sounded in the corridor. Antinea im- 
mediately fell back into the nonchalant pose in which 
I had first seen her. One had to see such a transfor- 
mation to believe it possible. 

Morhange entered the room, preceded by a white 
Targa. 

He, too, seemed rather pale. But I was most 
struck by the expression of serene peace on that face 
which I thought I knew so well. I felt that I never 
had understood what manner of man Morhange 
was, never. 

He stood erect before Antinea without seeming 
to notice her gesture inviting him to be seated. 

She smiled at him. 

"You are surprised, perhaps," she said finally, 
"that I should send for you at so late an hour." 

Morhange did not move an eyelash. 

"Have you considered it well?" she demanded. 

Morhange smiled gravely, but did not reply. 

I could read in Antinea's face the effort it cost 
her to continue smiling; I admired the self-control 
of these two beings. 

"I sent for you," she continued. "You do not 
guess why? . . . Well, it is to tell you something 
that you do not expect. It will be no surprise to you 
if I say that I never met a man like you. During 



THE SILVER HAMMER 249 



your captivity, you have expressed only one wish. 
Do you recall it?" 

"I asked your permission to see my friend before 
I died," said Morhange simply. 

I do not know what stirred mc more on hearing 
these words: delight at Morhange's formal tone in 
speaking to Antinea, or emotion at hearing the one 
wish he had expressed. 

But Antinea continued calmly: 

"That is why I sent for you — to tell you that 
you are going to see him again. And I am going 
to do something else. You will perhaps scorn me 
even more when you realize that you had only to 
oppose me to bend me to your will — T, who have 
bent all other wills to mine. But, however that may 
be, it is decided : I give you both your liberty. To- 
morrow Cegheir-ben-Cheikh will lead you past the 
fifth enclosure. Are you satisfied?" 

"I am," said Morhange with a mocking smile. 

"That will give me a chance," he continued, "to 
make better plans for the next trip I intend to make 
this way. For you need not doubt that I shall feel 
bound to return to express my gratitude. Only, next 
time, to render so great a queen the honors due her, 
I shall ask my government to furnish me with two 
or three hundred European soldiers and several 
cannon." 

Antinea was standing up, very pale. 

"What are you saying?" 



250 ATLANTIDA 

"I am saying," said Morhange coldly, "that I 
foresaw this. First threats, then promises." 

Antinea stepped toward him. He had folded his 
arms. He looked at her with a sort of grave pity. 

"I will make you die in the most atrocious ago- 
nies," she said finally. 

"I am your prisoner," Morhange replied. 

"You shall suffer things that you cannot even imag- 
me. 

"I am your prisoner," repeated Morhange in the 
same sad calm. 

Antinea paced the room like a beast In a cage. 
She advanced toward my companion and, no longer 
mistress of herself, struck him in the face. 

He smiled and caught hold of her, drawing her 
little wrists together with a strange mixture of force 
and gentleness. 

King Hiram growled. I thought he was about to 
leap. But the cold eyes of Morhange held him fas- 
cinated. 

"I will have your comrade killed before your 
eyes," gasped Antinea. 

It seemed to me that Morhange paled, but only 
for a second. I was overcome by the nobility and 
insight of his reply. 

"My companion is brave. He does not fear 
death. And, in any case, he would prefer death to 
life purchased at the price you name." 

So saying, he let go Antinea's wrists. Her pallor 



THE SILVER HAMMER 251 

was terrible. From the expression of her mouth I 
felt that this would be her last word to him. 

"Listen," she said. 

How beautiful she was, in her scorned majesty, 
her beauty powerless for the first time! 

"Listen," she continued. "Listen. For the last 
time. Remember that I hold the gates of this palace, 
that I have supreme power over your life. Remem- 
ber that you breathe only at my pleasure. Remem- 
ber . . ." 

"I have remembered all that," said Morhange. 

"A last time," she repeated. 

The serenity of Morhange's face was so power- 
ful that I scarcely noticed his opponent. In that 
transfigured countenance, no trace of worldliness re- 
mained. 

"A last time," came Antinea's voice, almost break- 
ing. 

Morhange was not ev^n looking at her. 

"As you will," she said. 

Her gong resounded. She had struck the silver 
disc. The white Targa appeared. 

"Leave the room I" 

Morhange, his head held high, went out. 

Now Antinea is in my arms. This is no haughty, 
voluptuous woman whom I am pressing to my heart. 
It is only an unhappy, scorned little girl. 

So great was her trouble that she showed no sur- 



252 ATLANTIDA 

prise when I stepped out beside her. Her head is 
on my shoulder. Like the crescent moon in the 
black clouds, I see her clear little bird-like profile 
amid her mass of hair. Her warm arms hold me 
convulsively. ... tremblant coeiir humain. . . . 
Who could resist such an embrace, amid the soft 
perfumes, in the langorous night? I feel myself a 
being without will. Is this my voice, the voice which 
is murmuring: 

"Ask me what you will, and I will do it, I will 
do it." 

My senses are sharpened, tenfold keen. My head 
rests against a soft, nervous little knee. Clouds of 
odors whirl about me. Suddenly It seems as if the 
golden lanterns are waving from the ceiling like 
giant censers. Is this my voice, the voice repeating 
in a dream : 

"Ask me what you will, and I will do it. I will 
do it." 

Antinea's face is almost touching mine. A strange 
light flickers in her great eyes. 

Beyond, I see the gleaming eyes of King Hiram. 
Beside him, there is a little table of Kairouan, blue 
and gold. On that table I see the gong with which 
Antinea summons the slaves. I see the hammer with 
which she struck it just now, a hammer with a long 
ebony handle, a heavy silver head . . . the hammer 
with which little Lieutenant Kaine dealt death. . . . 
I see nothing more. . . . 



CHAPTER XVII 

THE MAIDENS OF THE ROCKS 

I AWAKENED In my room. The sun, already at 
its zenith, filled the place with unbearable light and 
heat. 

The first thing I saw, on opening my eyes, was 
the shade, ripped down, lying in the middle of the 
floor. Then, confusedly, the night's events began 
to come back to me. 

My head felt stupid and heavy. My mind wan- 
dered. My memory seemed blocked. "I went out 
with the leopard, that is certain. That red mark on 
my forefinger shows how he strained at the leash. 
My knees are still dusty. I remember creeping along 
the wall in the room where the white Tuareg were 
playing at dice. That was the minute after King 
Hiram had leapt past them. After that . . . oh, 
Morhange and Antinea. , . . And then?" 

I recalled nothing more. T recalled nothing more. 
But something must have happened, something which 
I could not remember. 

I was uneasy. I wanted to go back, yet it seemed 
253 



254 ATLANTIDA 

as if I were afraid to go. I have never felt any- 
thing more painful than those conflicting emotions. 

"It is a long way from here to Antinea's apart- 
ments. I must have been very sound asleep not to 
have noticed when they brought me back — for they 
have brought me back." 

I stopped trying to think it out. My head ached 
too much. 

"I must have air," I murmured. "I am roasting 
here; it will drive me mad." 

I had to see someone, no matter whom. Mechan- 
ically, I walked toward the library. 

I found M. Le Mesge in a transport of delirious 
joy. The Professor was engaged in opening an 
enormous bale, carefully sewed in a brown blanket. 

"You come at a good time, sir," he cried, on seeing 
me enter. "The magazines have just arrived." 

He dashed about in feverish haste. Presently a 
stream of pamphlets and magazines, blue, green, 
yellow and salmon, was bursting from an opening in 
the bale. 

"Splendid, splendid I" he cried, dancing with joy. 
"Not too late, either; here are the numbers for 
October fifteenth. We must give a vote of thanks 
to good Ameur." 

His good spirits were contagious. 

"There is a good Turkish merchant who sub- 
scribes to all the interesting magazines of the two 
continents. He sends them on by Rhadames to a 



THE MAIDENS OF THE ROCKS 255 

destination which he little suspects. Ah, here arc 
the French ones." 

M. Le Mesge ran feverishly over the tables of 
contents. 

"Internal politics: articles by Francis Charmes, 
Anatole Leroy-Beaulieu, d'Maussonville on the 
Czar's trip to Paris. Look, a study by Avenel of 
wages in the Middle Ages. And verse, verses of the 
young poets, Fernand Gregh, Edmond Haraucourt. 
Ah, the resume of a book by Henry de Castries on 
Islam. That may be interesting. . . . Take what 
you please." 

Joy makes people amiable and M. Le Mesge was 
really delirious with it. 

A puff of breeze came from the window. I went 
to the balustrade and, resting my elbows on it, began 
to run through a number of the Revue des Deux 
Mondes. 

I did not read, but flipped over the pages, my eyes 
now on the lines of swarming little black characters, 
now on the rocky basin which lay shivering, pale 
pink, under the declining sun. 

Suddenly my attention became fixed. There was 
a strange coincidence between the text and the land- 
scape. 

"In the sky overhead were only light shreds of 
cloud, like bits of white ash floating up from burnt- 
out logs. The sun fell over a circle of rocky peaks, 
silhouetting their severe lines against the azure sky. 



256 ATLANTIDA 

From on high, a great sadness and gentleness poured 
down Into the lonely enclosure, lij^e a magic drink 
into a deep cup. . . ."^ 

I turned the pages fev^erishly. My mind seemed 
to be clearing. 

Behind me, M. Le Mesge, deep in an article, 
voiced his opinions in indignant growls. 

I continued reading: 

"On all sides a magnificent view spread out be- 
fore us in the raw light. The chain of rocks, clearly 
visible in their barren desolation which stretched to 
the very summit, lay stretched out like some great 
heap of gigantic, unformed things left by some prim- 
ordial race of Titans to stupefy human beings. 
Overturned towers . . ." 

"It is shameful, downright shameful," the Profes- 
sor was repeating. 

"Overturned towers, crumbling citadels, cupolas 
fallen in, broken pillars, mutilated colossi, prows of 
vessels, thighs of monsters, bones of titans, — this 
mass, impassable with its ridges and gullies, seemed 
the embodiment of everything huge and tragic. So 
clear were the distances . . ." 

"Downright shameful," M. Le Mesge kept on 
saying In exasperation, thumping his fist on the table. 

"So clear were the distances that I could see, as if 
I had It under my eyes, infinitely enlarged, every 

1 Gabrielle d'Annunzio : Les Vierges aux Rochers. Ci. The 
Revue des Deux Mondes of October 15, 1896; page 867. 



THE MAIDENS OF FIIE ROCKS 257 

contour of the rock whicli Violante had shown me 
through the window with the gesture of a creator. 

Trembling, I closed the magazine. At my feet, 
now red, I sa\v the rock which Antinea had pointed 
out to me the day of our first interview, huge, steep, 
overhanging the reddish brown garden. 

"That is my horizon," she had said. 

M. Le Mesge's excitement had passed all bounds. 

"It is worse than shameful; it is infamous." 

I almost wanted to strangle him into silence. He 
seized my arm. 

"Read that, sir; and, although you don't know a 
great deal about the subject, you w^ill see that this 
article on Roman Africa is a miracle of misinforma- 
tion, a monument of ignorance. And it Is signed . . . 
do you know by whom it Is signed?" 

"Leave me alone," I said brutally. 

"Well, it is signed Gaston Bolssier. Yes, sir! 
Gaston Bolssier, grand officer of the Legion of 
Honor, lecturer at the Ecole Normale Superieure, 
permanent secretary of the French Academy, mem- 
ber of the Academy of Inscriptions and Literature, 
one of those who once ruled out the subject of my 
thesis . . . one of those . . . ah, poor university, 
ah, poor France !" 

I was no longer listening. I had begun to read 
again. My forehead was covered with sweat. But 
it seemed as if my head had been cleared like a room 



258 ATLANTIDA 

when a window is opened; memories were beginning 
to come back like doves winging their way home to 
the dovecote. 

"At that moment, an irrepressible tremor shook 
her whole body; her eyes dilated as if some terrible 
sight had filled them with horror. 

" 'Antonello,' she murmured. 

"And for seconds, she was unable to say another 
word. 

"I looked at her in mute anguish and the suffer- 
ing which drew her dear lips together seemed also to 
clutch at my heart. The vision which was in her 
eyes passed into mine, and I saw again the thin white 
face of Antonello, and the quick quivering of his 
eyelids, the waves of agony which seized his long 
worn body and shook it like a reed." 

I threw the magazine upon the table. 

"That is it," I said. 

To cut the pages, I had used the knife with which 
M. Le Mesge had cut the cords of the bale, a short 
ebony-handled dagger, one of those daggers that the 
Tuareg wear in a bracelet sheath against the upper 
left arm. 

I slipped it into the big pocket of my flannel dol- 
man and walked toward the door. 

I was about to cross the threshold when I heard 
M. Lc Mesge call me. 

"Monsieur de Saint Avit! Monsieur de Saint 
AvitI" 



THE MAIDENS OF THE ROCKS 259 

"I want to ask you something, please." 

"What is it?" 

"Nothing important. You know that I have to 
mark the labels for the red marble hall. . . ." 

I walked toward the table. 

"Well, I forgot to ask M. Morhange, at the be- 
ginning, the date and place of his birth. After that, 
I had no chance. I did not see him again. So I 
am forced to turn to you. Perhaps you can tell me?" 

"I can," I said very calmly. 

He took a large white card from a box which con- 
tained several and dipped his pen. 

"Number 54 . . . Captain?" 

"Captain Jean-Marie-Frangois Morhange." 

While I dictated, one hand resting on the table, I 
noticed on my cuff a stain, a little stain, reddish 
brown. 

"Morhange," repeated M. Le Mesge, finishing 
the lettering of my friend's name. "Born at , . . ?" 

"Villefranche." 

"Villefranche, Rhone. What date?" 

"The fourteenth of October, 1859." 

"The fourteenth of October, 1859. Good. Died 
at Ahaggar, the fifth of January, 1897. . . . There, 
that is done. A thousand thanks, sir, for your kind- 
ness." 

"You are welcome." 

I left M. Le Mesge. 



26o ATLANTIDA 

My mind, thenceforth, was well made up; and, 
as I said, I was perfectly calm. Nevertheless, when 
I had taken leave of M. Le Mesge, I felt the need 
of waiting a few minutes before executing my de- 
cision. 

First I wandered through the corridors; then, 
finding myself near my room, I went to It. It was 
still Intolerably hot. I sat down on my divan and 
began to think. 

The dagger in my pocket bothered me. I took it 
out and laid it on the floor. 

It was a good dagger, with a diamond-shaped 
blade, and with a collar of orange leather between 
the blade and the handle. 

The sight of it recalled the silver hammer. I re- 
membered how easily it fitted into my hand when I 
struck . . . 

Every detail of the scene came back to me with 
Incomparable vividness. But I did not even shiver. 
It seemed as if my determination to kill the instiga- 
tor of the murder permitted me peacefully to evoke 
its brutal details. 

If I reflected over my deed, it was to be surprised 
at It, not to condemn myself. 

"Well," I said to myself, "I have killed this Mor- 
hange, who was once a baby, who, like all the oth- 
ers, cost his mother so much trouble with his baby 
sicknesses. I have put an end to his life, I have 
reduced to nothingness the monument of love, of 



THE MAIDENS OF THE ROCKS 261 

tears, of trials overcome and pitfalls escaped, which 
constitutes a human existence. What an extraordi- 
nary adventure!" 

That was all. No fear, no remorse, none of that 
Shakespearean horror after the murder, which, to- 
day, sceptic though I am and blase and utterly, ut- 
terly disillusioned, sets me shuddering whenever I 
am alone In a dark room. 

"Come," I thought. "It's time. Time to finish it 

up." 

I picked up the dagger. Before putting it in my 
pocket, I went through the motion of striking. All 
was well. The dagger fitted into my hand. 

I had been through Antlnea's apartment only 
when guided, the first time by the white Targa, the 
second time, by the leopard. Yet I found the 
way again without trouble. Just before com- 
ing to the door with the rose window, I met a 
Targa. 

"Let me pass," I ordered. "Your mistress has 
sent for me." 

The man obeyed, stepping back. 

Soon a dim melody came to my ears. I recog- 
nized the sound of a rebaza, the violin with a single 
string, played by the Tuareg women. It was Aguida 
playing, squatting as usual at the feet of her mistress. 
The three other women were also squatted about 
her. Tanit-Zerga was not there. 

Oh! Since that was the last time I saw her, let, 



262 ATLANTIDA 

oh, let me tell you of Antinea, how she looked in 
that supreme moment. 

Did she feel the danger hovering over her and 
did she wish to brave it by her surest artifices? I 
had in mind the slender, unadorned body, without 
rings, without jewels, which I had pressed to my 
heart the night before. And now I started in sur- 
prise at seeing before me, adorned like an idol, not 
a woman, but a queen ! 

The heavy splendor of the Pharaohs weighted 
down her slender body. On her head was the great 
gold pschent of Egyptian gods and kings ; emeralds, 
the national stone of the Tuareg, were set in it, trac- 
ing and retracing her name in Tifinar characters. A 
red satin schenti, embroidered in golden lotus, en- 
veloped her like the casket of a jewel. At her feet, 
lay an ebony scepter, headed with a trident. Her 
bare arms were encircled by two serpents whose 
fangs touched her armpits as if to bury themselves 
there. From the ear pieces of the pschent streamed 
a necklace of emeralds; its first strand passed under 
her determined chin; the others lay in circles against 
her bare throat. 

She smiled as I entered. 

*'I was expecting you," she said simply. 

I advanced till I was four steps from the throne, 
then stopped before her. 

She looked at me ironically. 

"What is that?" she asked with perfect calm. 



THE MAIDENS OF THE ROCKS 263 

I followed her gesture. The handle of the dagger 
protruded from my pocket. 

I drew it out and held it firmly in my hand, ready 
to strike. 

"The first of you who moves will be sent naked 
six leagues into the red desert and left there to die," 
said Antinea coldly to her women, whom my gesture 
had thrown into a frightened murmuring. 

She turned to me. 

"That dagger is very ugly and you hold it badly. 
Shall I send Sydya to my room to get the silver ham- 
mer? You are more adroit with it than with the 
dagger." 

"Antinea," I said in a low voice, "I am going to 
kill you." 

"Do not speak so formally. You were more af- 
fectionate last night. Are you embarrassed by 
them?" she said, pointing to the women, whose eyes 
were wide with terror. 

"Kill me?" she went on. "You are hardly reason- 
able. Kill me at the moment when you can reap the 
fruits of the murder of . . ." 

"Did — did he sufl^er?" I asked suddenly, tremb- 
ling. 

"Very little. I told you that you used the hammer 
as if you had done nothing else all your life." 

"Like little Kaine," I murmured. 

She smiled in surprise. 

"Oh, you know that story. . . . Yes, like little 



264 ATLANTIDA 

Kaine. But at least Kaine was sensible. You . . . 
I do not understand." 

"I do not understand myself, very well." 

She looked at me with amused curiosity. 

"Antinea," I said. 

"What is it?" 

"I did what you told me to. May I in turn ask 
one favor, ask you one question?" 

'•What is it?" 

"It was dark, was it not, in the room where he 
was?" 

"Very dark. I had to lead you to the bed where 
he lay asleep." 

"He was asleep, you are sure?" 

"I said so." 

"He — did not die instantly, did he?" 

"No. I know exactly when he died; two minutes 
after you struck him and fled with a shriek." 

"Then surely he could not have known?" 

"Known what?" 

"That it was I who — who held the hammer." 

"He might not have known it, indeed," said An- 
tinea. "But he did know." 

"How?" 

"He did know . . . because I told him," she said, 
staring at me with magnificent audacity. 

"And," I murmured, "he — he believed it?" 

"With the help of my explanation, he recognized 
your shriek. If he had not realized that you were 



THE MAIDENS OF THE ROCKS 265 

his murderer, the affair would not have interested 
me," she finished with a scornful little smile. 

Four steps, I said, separated me from Antinea. 
I sprang forward. But, before I reached her, I 
was struck to the floor. 

King Iliram had leapt at my throat. 

At the same moment I heard the calm, haughty 
voice of Antinea : 

*'CalI the men," she commanded. 

A second later I was released from the leopard's 
clutch. The six white Tuareg had surrounded me 
and were trying to bind me. 

I am fairly strong and quick. T was on my feet 
In a second. One of my enemies lay on the floor, ten 
feet away, felled by a well-placed blow on the jaw. 
Another was gasping under my knee. That was the 
last time I saw Antinea. She stood erect, both hands 
resting on her ebony scepter, watching the struggle 
with a smile of contemptuous interest. 

Suddenly I gave a loud ci-y and loosed the hold 
I had on my victim. A cracking in my left arm : one 
of the Tuareg had seized it and twisted until my 
shoulder was dislocated. 

When I completely lost consciousness, I was being 
carried down the corridor by two white phantoms, 
so bound that I could not move a muscle. 



CHAPTER XVIII 



THE FIRE-FLIES 



Through the great open window, waves of pale 
moonlight surged into my room. 

A slender white figure was standing beside the 
bed where I lay. 

"You, Tanit-Zerga !" I murmured. She laid a 
finger on her lips. 

*'ShI Yes, it is I." 

I tried to raise myself up on the bed. A terrible 
pain seized my shoulder. The events of the after- 
noon came back to my poor harassed mind. 

"Oh, little one, if you knew!" 

"I know," she said. 

I was weaker than a baby. After the overstrain 
of the day had come a fit of utter nervous depres- 
sion. A lump rose in my throat, choking me. 

"If you knew, if you only knew! . . . Take me 
away, little one. Get me away from here." 

"Not so loud," she whispered. "There is a white 
Targa on guard at the door." 

"Take me away; save me," I repeated 
266 



THE FIRE-FLIES 267 

"That is what I came for," she said simply. 

I looked at her. She no longer was wearing her 
beautiful red silk tunic. A plain white haik was 
wrapped about her; and she had drawn one comer 
of it over her head. 

"I want to go away, too," she said in a smothered 
voice. "For a long time, I have wanted to go away. 
I want to see Gao, the village on the bank of the 
river, and the blue gum trees, and the green water. 

"Ever since I came here, I have wanted to get 
away," she repeated, "but I am too little to go alone 
into the great Sahara. I never dared speak to the 
others who came here before you. They all thought 
only of her. . . . But you, you wanted to kill her." 

I gave a low moan. 

"You are suffering," she said. "They broke your 
arm. 

"Dislocated it anyhow." 

"Let me see." 

With infinite gentleness, she passed her smooth 
little hands over my shoulder. 

"You tell me that there is a white Targa on guard 
before my door, Tanit-Zerga," I said. "Then how 
did you get in?" 

"That way," she said, pointing to the window. 
A dark perpendicular line halved its blue open- 
ing. 

Tanit-Zerga went to the window. I saw her 
standing erect on the sill. A knife shone in her 



268 ATLANTIDA 

hands. She cut the rope at the top of the opening. 
It shpped down to the stone with a dry sound. 

She came back to me. 

"How can we escape?" I asked. 

"That way," she repeated, and she pointed again 
at the window. 

I leaned out. My feverish gaze fell upon the 
shadowy depths, searching for those invisible rocks, 
the rocks upon which little Kaine had dashed him- 
self. 

"That way!" I exclaimed, shuddering. "Why, 
it is two hundred feet from here to the ground." 

"The rope is two hundred and fifty," she replied. 
"It is a good strong rope which I stole in the oasis; 
they used it in felling trees. It is quite new." 

"Climb down that way, Tanit-Zerga! With my 
shoulder!" 

"I will let you down," she said firmly. "Feel how 
strong my arms are. Not that I shall rest your 
weight on them. But see, on each side of the window 
is a marble column. By twisting the rope around 
one of them, I can let you slip down and scarcely 
feel your weight. 

"And look," she continued, "I have made a big 
knot every ten feet. I can stop the rope with them, 
every now and then, if I want to rest." 

"And you?" I asked. 

"When you are down, I shall tie the rope to one 
oi the columns and follow. Tliere are the knots on 



THE F I R E - F L I E S 269 

which to rest if the rope cuts my hands too much. 
But don't be afraid: I am very agile. At Gao, 
when I was just a child, I used to climb almost as 
high as this in the gimi trees to take the little toucans 
out of their nests. It is even easier to climb down." 

"And when we are down, how will we get out? 
Do you know the way through the barriers?" 

"No one knows the way through the barriers," she 
said, "except Cegheir-ben-Cheikh, and perhaps An- 
tinea." 

"Then?" 

"There are the camels of Cegheir-ben-Cheikh, 
those which he uses on his forays. I untethered the 
strongest one and led him out, just below us, and 
gave him lots of hay so that he will not make a sound 
and will be well fed when we start." 

"But ..." I still protested. 

She stamped her foot. 

"But what? Stay if you wish, if you are afraid. 
I am going. I want to see Gao once again, Gao 
with its blue gum-trees and its green water." 

I felt myself blushing. 

"I will go, Tanit-Zerga. I would rather die of 
thirst in the midst of the desert than stay here. Let 
us start." 

"Tut!" she said. "Not yet." 

She showed me that the dizzy descent was in bril- 
liant moonlight. 

"Not yet. We must wait. They would see us. 



270 ATLANTIDA 

In an hour, the moon will have circled behind the 
mountain. That will be the time." 

She sat silent, her haik wrapped completely about 
her dark little figure. Was she praying? Perhaps. 

Suddenly I no longer saw her. Darkness had 
crept in the window. The moon had turned. 

Tanit-Zerga's hand was on my arm. She drew 
me toward the abyss. I tried not to tremble. 

Everything below us was in shadow. In a low, 
firm voice, Tanit-Zerga began to speak: 

"Everything is ready. I have twisted the rope 
about the pillar. Here is the slip-knot. Put it under 
your arms. Take this cushion. Keep it pressed 
against your hurt shoulder. ... A leather cushion. 
... It is tightly stuffed. Keep face to the wall. It 
will protect you against the bumping and scrap- 
ing." 

I was now master of myself, very calm. I sat 
down on the sill of the window, my feet in the 
void. A breath of cool air from the peaks refreshed 
me. 

I felt little Tanit-Zerga's hand in my vest pocket. 

"Here is a box. I must know when you are down, 
so I can follow. You will open the box. There are 
fire-flies in it; I shall see them and follow you." 

She held my hand a moment. 

"Now go," she murmured. 

I went. 

I remember only one thing about that descent: I 



THE FIRE -FLIES 271 

was overcome with vexation when the rope stopped 
and I found myself, feet danghng, against the per- 
fectly smooth wall. 

"What is the little fool waiting for?" I said to 
myself. "I have been hung here for a quarter of an 
hour. Ah ... at last! Oh, here I am stopped 
again." Once or twice I thought I was reaching the 
ground, but it was only a projection from the rock. 
I had to give a quick shove with my foot. . . . 
Then, suddenly, I found myself seated on the ground. 
I stretched out my hands. Bushes. ... A thorn 
pricked my finger. I was down. 

Immediately I began to get nervous again. 

I pulled out the cushion and slipped off the noose. 
With my good hand, I pulled the rope, holding it 
out five or six feet from the face of the mountain, 
and put my foot on it. 

Then I took the little cardboard box from my 
pocket and opened it. 

One after the other, three little luminous circles 
rose in the inky night. I saw them rise higher and 
higher against the rocky wall. Their pale rose 
aureols gleamed faintly. Then, one by one, they 
turned, disappeared. 

"You are tired, Sidi Lieutenant. Let me hold 
the rope." 

Cegheir-ben-Cheikh rose up at my side. 

I looked at his tall black silhouette. I shuddered. 



272 ATLANTIDA 

but I did not let go of the rope on which I began to 
feel distant jerks. 

"Give It to me," he repeated with authority. 
And he took it from my hands. 
I don't know what possessed me then. I was 
standing beside that great dark phantom. And I 
ask you, what could I, with a dislocated shoulder, do 
against that man whose agile strength I already 
knew? What was there to do? I saw him but- 
tressed against the wall, holding the rope with both 
hands, with both feet, with all his body, much bet- 
ter than I had been able to do. 

A rustling above our heads. A little shadowy 
form. 

"There," said Cegheir-ben-CheIkh, seizing the 
little shadow in his powerful arms and placing her 
on the ground, while the rope, let slack, slapped 
back against the rock. 

Tanit-Zerga recognized the Targa and groaned. 

He put his hand roughly over her mouth. 

"Shut up, camel thief, wretched little fly." 

He seized her arm. Then he turned to me. 

"Come," he said In an imperious tone. 

I obeyed. During our short walk, I heard Tanit- 
Zerga's teeth chattering with terror. 

We reached a little cave. 

"Go In," said the Targa. 

He lighted a torch. The red light showed a su- 
perb mehari peacefully chewing his cud. 



THE FT RK- FLIES 273 

" [he little one Is not stupid," said Cegheir-ben- 
Cheikh, pointing to the animal. "She knows enough 
to pick out the best and the strongest. But she is 
rattle-brained." 

He held the torch nearer the camel. 

"She is rattle-brained," he continued. "She only 
saddled him. No water, no food. At this hour, 
three days from now, all three of you would have 
been dead on the road, and on what a road!" 

Tanlt-Zerga's teeth no longer chattered. She was 
looking at the Targa with a mixture of terror and 
hope. 

"Come here, Sidi Lieutenant," said Cegheir-ben- 
Cheikh, "so that I can explain to you." 

When I was beside him, he said: 

"On each side there is a skin of water. Make that 
water last as long as possible, for you are going to 
cross a terrible country. It may be that you will 
not find a well for three hundred miles. 

"There," he went on, "in the saddle bags, are 
cans of preserved meat. Not many, for water is 
much more precious. Here also is a carbine, your 
carbine, sidi. Try not to use it except to shoot ante- 
lopes. And there is this." 

He spread out a roll of paper. I saw his in- 
scrutible face bent over it; his eyes were smiling; 
he looked at me. 

"Once out of the enclosures, what way did you 
plan to go?" he asked. 



274 ATLANTIDA 

"Toward Ideles, to retake the route where you 
met the Captain and me," I said. 

Cegheir-ben Cheikh shook his head. 

"I thought as much," he murmured. 

Then he added coldly: 

"Before sunset to-morrow, you and the little one 
would have been caught and massacred," 

"Toward the north is Ahaggar," he continued, 
"and all Ahaggar is under the control of Antinea. 
You must go south." 

"Then we shall go south." 

"By what route?" 

"Why, by Silet and Timassao." 

The Targa again shook his head. 

"They will look for you on that road also," he 
said. "It is a good road, the road with the wells. 
They know that you are familiar with it. The Tua- 
reg would not fail to wait at the wells." 

"Well, then?" 

"Well," said Cegheir-ben-Cheikh, "you must not 
rejoin the road from Timassao to Timbuctoo until 
you are four hundred miles from here toward Ifer- 
ouane, or better still, at the spring of Telemsi. That 
Is the boundary between the Tuareg of Ahaggar and 
the Awellimiden Tuareg." 

The little voice of Tanit-Zerga broke 
in: 

"It was the Awellimiden Tuareg who massacred 
my people and carried me into slavery. I do not 



THE F I R E - F L I E S 275 

want to pass through the country of the Awelli- 
miden." 

"Be still, miserable little fly," said Ccghcir-ben- 
Cheikh. 

Then, addressing me, he continued: 

"I have said what I have said. The little one Is 
not wrong. The Awellimiden are a savage people. 
But they are afraid of the French. Many of them 
trade with the stations north of the Niger. On the 
other hand, they are at war with the people of 
Ahaggar, who will not follow you into their coun- 
try. What I have said, is said. You must rejoin 
the Timbuctoo road near where it enters the bor- 
ders of the Awellimiden. Their country is wooded 
and rich in springs. If you reach the springs at 
Telemsi, you will finish your journey beneath a can- 
opy of blossoming mimosa. On the other hand, 
the road from here to Telemsi is shorter than by 
way of Timissao. It is quite straight." 

"Yes, it is direct," I said, "but, in following it, 
you have to cross the Tanezruft." 

Cegheir-ben-Cheikh waved his hand impatiently. 

"Cegheir-ben-Cheikh knows that," he said. "He 
knows what the Tanezruft is. He who has traveled 
over all the Sahara knows that he would shudder at 
crossing the Tanezruft and the Tasili from the south. 
He knows that the camels that wander into that 
country either die or become wild, for no one will 
risk his life to go look for them. It is the terror 



276 ATLANTIDA 

that hangs over that region that may save you. For 
you have to choose : you must run the risk of dying 
of thirst on the tracks of the Tanezruft or have 
your throat cut along some other route." 

"You can stay here," he added. 

"My choice is made, Cegheir-ben-Cheikh," I an- 
nounced. 

"Good!" he replied, again opening out the roll of 
paper. "This trail begins at the second barrier of 
earth, to which I will lead you. It ends at Iferouane. 
I have marked the wells, but do not trust to them 
too much, for many of them are dry. Be careful 
not to stray from the route. If you lose It, it Is 
death. . . . Now mount the camel with the little 
one. Two make less noise than four." 

We went a long way in silence. Cegheir-ben- 
Cheikh walked ahead and his camel followed meekly. 
We crossed, first, a dark passage, then, a deep gorge, 
then another passage. . . . The entrance to each 
was hidden by a thick tangle of rocks and briars. 

Suddenly a burning breath touched our faces. A 
dull reddish light filtered in through the end of the 
passage. The desert lay before us. 

Cegheir-ben-Cheikh had stopped. 

"Get down," he said. 

A spring gurgled out of the rock. The Targa 
went to It and filled a copper cup with the water. 

"Drink," he said, holding It out to each of us In 
turn. 



THE F I R E - F L I E S 277 

We obeyed. 

"Drink again," he ordered. "You will save just 
so much of the contents of your water skins. Now 
try not to be thirsty before sunset." 

He looked over the saddle girths. 

"That's all right," he murmured. "\ow go. In 
two hours the dawn will be here. You must be out 
of sight." 

I was filled with emotion at this last moment; I 
went to the Targa and took his hand. 

"Cegheir-ben-Cheikh," I asked in a low voice, 
"why are you doing this?" 

He stepped back and I saw his dark eyes gleam. 

"Why?" he said. 

"Yes, why?" 

He replied with dignity: 

"The Prophet permits every just man, once in his 
lifetime, to let pity take the place of duty. Cegheir- 
ben-Cheikh is turning this permission to the advan- 
tage of one who saved his life." 

"And you are not afraid," I asked, "that I will 
disclose the secret of Antinea if I return among 
Frenchmen?" 

He shook his head. 

"I am not afraid of that," he said, and his voice 
was full of irony. "It is not to your interest that 
Frenchmen should know how the Captain met his 
death." 

I was horrified at this logical reply. 



278 ATLANTIDA 

"Perhaps I am doing wrong," the Targa went on, 
"in not killing the little one. . , . But she 
loves you. She will not talk. Now go. Day is 
coming." 

I tried to press the hand of this strange rescuer, 
but he again drew back, 

"Do not thank me. What I am doing, I do to 
acquire merit in the ey«s of God. You may be sure 
that I shall never do it again neither for you nor 
for anyone else." 

And, as I made a gesture to reassure him on that 
point, "Do not protest," he said in a tone the mock- 
ery of which still sounds in my ears. "Do not pro- 
test. What I am doing is of value to me, but not to 
you." 

I looked at him uncomprehendingly. 

"Not to you, Sidi Lieutenant, not to you," his 
grave voice continued. "For you will come back; 
and when that day comes, do not count on the help 
of Cegheir-ben-Cheikh." 

"I will come back?" I asked, shuddering. 

"You will come back," the Targa replied. 

He was standing erect, a black statue against the 
wall of gray rock. 

"You will come back," he repeated with emphasis. 
"You are fleeing now, but you are mistaken if you 
think that you will look at the world with the same 
eyes as before. Henceforth, one idea will follow 
you everywhere you go; and in one year, five, per- 



THE F I R E - F L 1 E S 279 

haps ten years, you will pass again through the cor- 
ridor through which yoti have just come." 

"Be still, Cegheir-ben-Chekih," said the trembling 
voice of Tanit-Zerga. 

"Be still yourself, miserable little fly," said Ceg- 
heir-ben-Cheikh. 

He sneered. 

"The little one is afraid because she knows that I 
tell the truth. She knows the story of Lieutenant 
Ghiberti." 

"Lieutenant Ghiberti?" I said, the sweat stand- 
ing out on my forehead. 

"He was an Italian officer whom I met between 
Rhat and Rhadames eight years ago. He did not 
believe that love of Antinea could make him forget 
all else that life contained. He tried to escape, 
and he succeeded. I do not know how, for I did 
not help him. He went back to his country. But 
hear what happened: two years later, to the very 
day, when I was leaving the look-out, I discovered 
a miserable tattered creature, half dead from hun- 
ger and fatigue, searching in vain for the entrance 
to the northern barrier. It w^as Lieutenant Ghi- 
berti, come back. He fills niche Number 39 in the 
red marble hall." 

The Targa smiled slightly. 

"That is the story of Lieutenant Ghiberti which 
you wished to hear. But enough of this. Mount 
your camel." 



28o ATLANTIDA 

I obeyed without saying a word. Tanlt-Zerga, 
seated behind me, put her little arms around me. 
Ceghelr-ben-CheIkh was still holding the bridle. 

"One word more," he said, pointing to a black 
spot against the violet sky of the southern horizon. 
"You see the goiir there; that is your way. It is 
eighteen miles from here. You should reach it by 
sunrise. Then consult your map. The next point 
Is marked. If you do not stray from the line, you 
should be at the springs of Telemsl in eight days." 

The camel's neck was stretched toward the dark 
wind coming from the south. 

The Targa released the bridle with a sweep of 
his hand. 

"Now, go." 

"Thank you," I called to him, turning back in the 
saddle. "Thank you, Ceghelr-ben-Cheikh, and fare- 
well." 

I heard his voice replying in the distance: 

"Au revoir, Lieutenant de Saint Avit." 



CHAPTER XIX 



THE TANEZRUFT 



During the first hour of our filght, the great 
mehari of Cegheir-ben-Cheikh carried us at a mad 
pace. We covered at least five leagues. With fixed 
eyes, I guided the beast toward the goiir which the 
Farga had pointed out, its ridge becoming higher 
and higher against the paling sky. 

The speed caused a little breeze to whistle in our 
ears. Great tufts of retem, like fleshless skeletons, 
were tossed to right and left. 

I heard the voice of Tanlt-Zerga whisper- 
ing: 

"Stop the camel." 

At first I did not understand. 

"Stop him," she repeated. 

Her hand pulled sharply at my right arm. 

I obeyed. The camel slackened his pace with very 
bad grace. 

"Listen," she said. 

At first I heard nothing. Then a very slight noise, 
a dry rustling behind us. 

281 



282 ATLANTIDA 

"Stop the camel," Tanlt-Zerga commanded. "It 
is not worth while to make him kneel." 

A little gray creature bounded on the camel. The 
mehari set out again at his best speed. 

"Let him go," said Tanit-Zerga. "Gale has 
jumped on." 

I felt a tuft of bristly hair under my arm. The 
mongoose had followed our footsteps and rejoined 
us. I heard the quick panting of the brave little crea- 
ture becoming gradually slower and slower. 

"I am happy," murmured Tanit-Zerga. 

Cegheir-ben-Cheikh had not been mistaken. We 
reached the goiir as the sun rose. I looked back. 
The Atakor was nothing more than a monstrou-^, 
chaos amid the night mists which trailed the dawn. 
It was no longer possible to pick out from among 
the nameless peaks, the one on which Antinea was 
still weaving her passionate plots. 

You know what the Tanezruft is, the "plain of 
plains," abandoned, uninhabitable, the country of 
hunger and thirst. We were then starting on the 
part of the desert which Duveyrier calls the Tasili 
of the south, and which figures on the maps of the 
Minister of Public Works under this attractive title : 
"Rocky plateau, without water, without vegetation, 
inhospitable for man and beast." 

Nothing, unless parts of the Kalahari, is more 
frightful than this rocky desert. Oh, Cegheir-ben- 



THE TANKZRUFT 283 

Cheikh did not exaggerate In saying that no one 
would dream of following us into that count^)^ 

Great patches of oblivion still refused to clear 
away. Memories chased each other incoherently 
about my head. A sentence came back to me text- 
ually: "It seemed to Dick that he had never, since 
the beginning of original darkness, done anything at 
all save jolt through the air." I gave a little laugh. 
"In the last few hours," I thought, "I have been 
heaping up literary situations. A while ago, a hun- 
dred feet above the ground, I was Fabrice of La 
Chartreuse de Parme beside his Italian dungeon. 
Now, here on my camel, I am Dick of The Light 
That Failed, crossing the desert to meet his com- 
panions in arms." I chuckled again; then shuddered. 
I thought of the preceding night, of the Orestes of 
Androjnaque who agreed to sacrifice Pyrrhus. A 
literary situation indeed. . . . 

Ceghelr-ben-Cheikh had reckoned eight days to 
get to the wooded country of the Awellimiden, fore- 
runners of the grassy steppes of the Soudan. He 
knew well the worth of his beast. Tanlt-Zerga had 
suddenly given him a name, El Mellen, the white 
one, for the magnificent mehari had an almost spot- 
less coat. Once he went two days without eating, 
merely picking up here and there a branch of an 
acacia tree whose hideous white spines, four inches 
long, filled me with fear for our friend's oesophagus. 
The wells marked out by Cegheir-ben-Chelkh were 



284 ATLANTIDA 

indeed at the indicated spots, but we found nothing 
in them but a burning yellow mud. It was enough 
for the camel, enough so that at the end of the fifth 
day, thanks to prodigious self-control, we had used 
up only one of our two water skins. Then we be- 
lieved ourselves safe. 

Near one of these muddy puddles, I succeeded that 
day in shooting down a little straight-horned desert 
gazelle. Tanit-Zerga skinned the beast and we re- 
galed ourselves with a delicious haunch. Meantime, 
little Gale, who never ceased prying about the cracks 
in the rocks during our mid-day halts in the heat, 
discovered an ourane, a sand crocodile, five feet long, 
and made short work of breaking his neck. She ate 
so much she could not budge. It cost us a pint of 
water to help her digestion. We gave it with good 
grace, for we were happy. Tanit-Zerga did not say 
so, but her joy at knowing that I was thinking no 
more of the woman in the gold diadem and the 
emeralds was apparent. And really, during those 
days, I hardly thought of her. I thought only of 
the torrid heat to be avoided, of the water skins 
which, if you wished to drink fresh water, had to be 
left for an hour in a cleft in the rocks; of the intense 
joy which seized you when you raised to your lips a 
leather goblet brimming with that life-saving water. 
... I can say this with authority, with good author- 
ity, indeed; passion, spiritual or physical, is a thing 
for those who have eaten and drunk and rested. 



THE TANEZRUFT 285 

It was five o'clock in the afternoon. The fright- 
ful heat was slackening. We had left a kind of 
rocky crevice where we had had a little nap. Seated 
on a huge rock, we were watching the reddening 
west. 

I spread out the roll of paper on which Cegheir- 
ben-Cheikh had marked the stages of our journey 
as far as the road from the Soudan. I realized 
again with joy that his itinerary was exact and that 
I had followed it scrupulously. 

"The evening of the day after to-morrow," I said, 
"we shall be setting out on the stage which will take 
us, by the next dawn, to the waters at Telemsi. Once 
there, we shall not have to worry any more about 
water." 

Tanit-Zerga's eyes danced in her thin face. 

"And Gao?" she asked. 

"We will be only a week from the Niger. And 
Cegheir-ben-Cheikh said that at Telemsi, one reached 
a road overhung with mimosa." 

"I know the mimosa," she said. "They are the 
little yellow balls that melt in your hand. But I like 
the caper flowers better. You will come with me to 
Gao. My father, Sonni-Askia, was killed, as I told 
you, by the Awellimiden. But my people must have 
rebuilt the villages. They are used to that. You 
will see how you will be received." 

"I will go, Tanit-Zerga, I promise you. But you 
also, you must promise me . . ." 



286 ATLANTIDA 

"What? Oh, I guess. You must take me for 
a little fool if you believe me capable of speaking 
of things which might make trouble for my friend." 

She looked at me as she spoke. Privation and 
great fatigue had chiselled the brown face where her 
great eyes shone. . . . Since then, I have had time 
to assemble the maps and compasses, and to fix for- 
ever the spot where, for the first time, I understood 
the beauty of Tanlt-Zerga's eyes. 

There was a deep silence between us. It was she 
who broke It. 

"Night Is coming. We must eat so as to leave as 
soon as possible." 

She stood up and went toward the rocks. 

Almost Immediately, I heard her calling in an an- 
guished voice that sent a chill through me. 

"Come! Oh, come see!" 

With a bound, I was at her side. 

"The camel," she murmured. "The camel!" 

I looked, and a deadly shudder seized me. 

Stretched out at full length, on the other side of 
the rocks, his pale flanks knotted up by convulsive 
spasms. El Mellen lay in anguish. 

I need not say that we rushed to him In feverish 
haste. Of what El Mellen was dying, I did not 
know, I never have known. All the mehara are 
that way. They are at once the most enduring and 
the most delicate of beasts. They will travel for 
six months across the most frightful deserts, with 



THE TANEZRUFT 287 

little food, without water, and seem only the better 
for it. Then, one day when nothing is the matter, 
they stretch out and give you the slip with discon- 
certing ease. 

When Tanit-Zerga and I saw that there was noth- 
ing more to do, we stood there without a word, 
watching his slackening spasms. When he breathed 
ills last, we felt that our life, as well as his, had 
gone. 

It was Tanit-Zerga who spoke first. 

"How far are we from the Soudan road?" she 
asked. 

"We are a hundred and twenty miles from the 
springs of Telemsi," I replied. "We could make 
thirty miles by going toward Ifrouane, but the wells 
are not marked on that route." 

"Then we must walk toward the springs of Te- 
lemsi," she said. "A hundred and twenty miles, that 
makes seven days?" 

"Seven days at the least, Tanit-Zerga." 

"How far is it to the first well?" 

"Thirty-five miles." 

The little girl's face contracted somewhat. But 
she braced up quickly. 

"We must set out at once." 

"Set out on foot, Tanit-Zerga !" 

She stamped her foot. I marveled to see her so 
strong. 

"We must go," she repeated. "We are going to 



288 ATLANTIDA 

eat and drink and make Gale eat and drink, for we 
cannot carry all the tins, and the water skin is so 
heavy that we should not get three miles if we tried 
to carry it. We will put a little water in one of the 
tins after emptying it through a little hole. That 
will be enough for to-night's stage, which will be 
eighteen miles without water. To-morrow we will 
set out for another eighteen miles and we will reach 
the wells marked on the paper by Cegheir-ben- 
Cheikh." 

"Oh," I murmured sadly, "if my shoulder were 
only not this way, I could carry the water skin." 

"It is as it is," said Tanit-Zerga. 

"You will take your carbine and two tins of meat. 
I shall take two more and the one filled with water. 
Come. We must leave in an hour if we wish to 
cover the eighteen miles. You know that when the 
sun is up, the rocks are so hot we cannot walk." 

I leave you to imagine in what sad silence we 
passed that hour which we had begun so happily and 
confidently. Without the little girl, I believe I 
should have seated myself upon a rock and waited. 
Gale only was happy. 

"We must not let her eat too much," said Tanit- 
Zerga. "She would not be able to follow us. And 
to-morrow she must work. If she catches another 
ourane, it will be for us." 

You have walked in the desert. You know how 



THE TANEZRUFT 289 

terrible the first h£)urs of tlic night arc. When the 
moon comes up, huge and yellow, a sharp dust seems 
to rise in suffocating clouds. You move your jaws 
mechanically as if to crush the dust that finds its way 
into your throat like fire. Then usually a kind of 
lassitude, of drowsiness, follows. You walk without 
thinking. You forget where you are walking. You 
remember only when you stumble. Of course you 
stumble often. But anyway it is bearable. "The 
night is ending," you say, "and with it the march. 
All in all, I am less tired than at the beginning." 
The night ends, but then comes the most terrible 
hour of all. You are perishing of thirst and shak- 
ing with cold. All the fatigue comes back at once. 
The horrible breeze which precedes the dawn is no 
comfort. Quite the contrary. Every time you 
stumble, you say, "The next misstep will be the 
last." 

That is what people feel and say even when they 
know that in a few hours they will have a good rest 
with food and water. 

I was suffering terribly. Every step jolted my 
poor shoulder. At one time, I wanted to stop, to 
sit down. Then I looked at Tanit-Zerga. She was 
walking ahead with her eyes almost closed. Her 
expression was an indefinable one of mingled suffer- 
ing and determination. I closed my own eyes and 
went on. 

Such was the first stage. At dawn we stopped in 



290 ATLANTIDA 

a hollow in the rocks. Soon the heat forced us to 
rise to seek a deeper one. Tanit-Zerga did not 
eat. Instead, she swallowed a little of her half can 
of water. She lay drowsy all day. Gale ran about 
our rock giving plaintive little cries. 

I am not going to tell you about the second march. 
It was more horrible than anything you can imagine. 
I suffered all that it is humanly possible to suffer in 
the desert. But already I began to observe with 
infinite pity that my man's strength was outlasting the 
nervous force of my little companion. The poor 
child walked on without saying a word, chewing 
feebly one corner of her haik which she had drawn 
over her face. Gale followed. 

The well toward which we were dragging our- 
selves was Indicated on Cegheir-ben-Cheikh's paper 
by the one word Tissarir'm. Tissaririn is the 
plural of Tissarirt and means "two isolated 
trees." 

Day was dawning when finally I saw the two trees, 
two gum trees. Hardly a league separated us from 
them. I gave a cry of joy. 

"Courage, Tanit-Zerga, there is the well." 

She drew her veil aside and I saw the poor 
anguished little face. 

"So much the better," she murmured, "because 
otherwise ..." 

She could not even finish the sentence. 

We finished the last half mile almost at a run. 



THi; rANEZRUFT 291 

We already saw the hole, the opening of the well. 
Finally we reached it. 
It was empty. 

It is a strange sensation to be dying of thirst. 
At first the suffering is terrible. Then, gradually, it 
becomes less. You become partly unconscious. Ri- 
diculous little things about your life occur to you, 
fly about you like mosquitoes. I began to remember 
my history composition for the entrance examination 
of Saint-Cyr, "The Campaign of Marengo." Ob- 
stinately I repeated to myself, "I have already said 
that the battery unmasked by Marmont at the mo- 
ment of Kellerman's charge included eighteen pieces. 
. . . No, I remember now, it was only twelve pieces. 
I am sure it was twelve pieces." 

I kept on repeating: 

"Twelve pieces." 

Then I fell into a sort of coma. 

I was recalled from it by feeling a red-hot iron 
on my forehead. I opened my eyes. Tanit-Zerga 
was bending over me. It was her hand which burnt 
so. 

"Get up," she said. "We must go on." 

"Go on, Tanit-Zerga ! The desert is on fire. 
The sun is at the zenith. It is noon." 

■"We must go on," she repeated. 

Then I saw that she was delirious. 

She was standing erect. Her haik had fallen to 



292 ATLANTIDA 

the ground and little Gale, rolled up In a ball, was 
asleep on it. 

Bareheaded, indifferent to the frightful sunlight, 
she kept repeating: 

"We must go on." 

A little sense came back to me. 

"Cover your head, Tanit-Zerga, cover your 
head." 

"Come," she repeated. "Let's go. Gao is over 
there, not far away. I can feel it. I want to see 
Gao again." 

I made her sit down beside me in the shadow of 
a rock. I realized that all strength had left her. 
The wave of pity that swept over me, brought back 
my senses. 

"Gao is just over there, isn't it?" she asked. 

Her gleaming eyes became imploring. 

"Yes, dear little girl. Gao is there. But for 
God's sake lie down. The sun is fearful." 

"Oh, Gao, Gao !" she repeated. "I know very 
well that I shall see Gao again." 

She sat up. Her fiery little hands gripped mine. 

"Listen. I must tell you so you can understand 
how I know I shall see Gao again." 

"Tanit-Zerga, be quiet, my little girl, be quiet." 

"No, I must tell you. A long time ago, on the 
bank of the river where there is water, at Gao, 
where my father was a prince, there was . . . Well, 
one day, one feast day, there came from the interior 



THE TANEZRUFT 293 

of the country an old magician, dressed in skins and 
feathers, with a mask and a pointed head-dress, with 
castanets, and two serpents in a bag. On the village 
square, where all our people formed in a circle, he 
danced the hoitssadilla. I was in the first row, and 
because I had a necklace of pink tourmaline, he 
quickly saw that I was the daughter of a chief. So 
he spoke to me of the past, of the great Mandingue 
Empire over which my grandfathers had ruled, of 
our enemies, the fierce Kountas, of everything, and 
finally he said : 

" 'Have no fear, little girl.' 

"Then he said again, 'Do not be afraid. Evil days 
may be in store for you, but what does that matter? 
For one day you will see Gao gleaming on the hori- 
zon, no longer a servile Gao reduced to the rank of a 
little negro town, but the splendid Gao of other 
days, the great capital of the country of the blacks, 
Gao reborn, with its mosque of seven towers and 
fourteen cupolas of turquoise, with its houses with 
cool courts, its fountains, its watered gardens, all 
blooming with great red and white flowers. . . . 
That will be for you the hour of deliverance and of 
royalty.' " 

Tanit-Zerga was standing up. All about us, on 
our heads, the sun blazed on the hamada, burning it 
white. 

Suddenly the child stretched out her arms. She 
gave a terrible cry. 



294 ATLANTIDA 

"Gao! There is Gao!" 

I looked at her. 

"Gao," she repeated.. "Oh, I know it well! 
There are the trees and the fountains, the cupolas 
and the towers, the palm trees, the great red and 
white flowers. Gao . . ." 

Indeed, along the shimmering horizon rose a fan- 
tastic city with mighty buildings that towered, tier 
on tier, until they formed a rainbow. Wide-eyed, 
we stood and watched the terrible mirage quiver 
feverishly before us. 

"Gao!" I cried. "Gao!" 

And almost immediately I uttered another cry, 
of sorrow and of horror. Tanit-Zerga's little hand 
relaxed in mine. I had just time to catch the child 
in my arms and hear her murmur as in a whisper: 

"And then that will be the day of deliverance. 
The day of deliverance and of royalty." 

Several hours later I took the knife with which 
we had skinned the desert gazelle and, in the sand 
at the foot of the rock where Tanit-Zerga had given 
up her spirit, I made a little hollow where she was 
to rest. 

When everything was ready, I wanted to look once 
more at that dear little face. Courage failed me for 
a moment. . . . Then I quickly drew the haik over 
the brown face and laid the body of the child in the 
hollow. 



THE T A N E Z R U F T 295 

I had reckoned without Gale. 

The eyes of the mongoose had not left me during 
the whole time that I was about my sad duty. When 
she heard the first handfuls of sand fall on the luiik, 
she gave a sharp cry. I looked at her and saw her 
ready to spring, her eyes darting fire. 

"Gale!" I implored; and I tried to stroke her. 

She bit my hand and then leapt into the grave and 
began to dig, throwing the sand furiously aside. 

I tried three times to chase her away. I felt that 
I should never finish my task and that, even if I did, 
Gale would stay there and disinter the body. 

My carbine lay at my feet. A shot drew echoes 
from the immense empty desert. A moment later. 
Gale also slept her last sleep, curled up, as I so often 
had seen her, against the neck of her mistress. 

When the surface showed nothing more than a 
little mound of trampled sand, I rose staggering and 
started off aimlessly into the desert, toward the 
south. 



CHAPTER XX 

THE CIRCLE IS COMPLETE 

At the foot of the valley of the Mia, at the 
place where the jackal had cried the night Saint- 
Avit told me he had killed Morhange, another jackal, 
or perhaps the same one, howled again. 

Immediately I had a feeling that this night would 
see the irremediable fulfilled. 

We were seated that evening, as before, on the 
poor veranda improvised outside our dining-room. 
The floor was of plaster, the balustrade of twisted 
branches; four posts supported a thatched roof. 

I have already said that from the veranda one 
could look far out over the desert. As he finished 
speaking, Saint-Avit rose and stood leaning his el- 
bows on the railing. I followed him. 

"And then ..." I said. 

He looked at me. 

"And then what? Surely you know what all the 
newspapers told — how, in the country of the Awelli- 
miden, I was found dying of hunger and thirst by 
an expedition under the command of Captain Ay- 

296 



THE CIRCLE IS COMPLETE 297 

mard, and taken to Timbuctoo. I was delirious for 
a month afterward. I have never known what I 
may have said during those spells of burning fever. 
You may be sure the officers of the Timbuctoo Club 
did not feel it incumbent upon them to tell me. When 
I told them of my adventures, as they are related 
in the report of the Morhange — Saint-Avit Expedi- 
tion, I could see well enough from the cold polite- 
ness with which they received my explanations, that 
the official version which I gave them differed at 
certain points from the fragments which had escaped 
me in my delirium, 

"They did not press the matter. It remains under- 
stood that Captain Morhange died from a sun- 
stroke and that I buried him on the border of the 
Tarhit watercourse, three marches from Timissao. 
Everybody can detect that there are things missing 
in my story. Doubtless they guess at some myste- 
rious drama. But proofs are another matter. Be- 
cause of the impossibility of collecting them, they 
prefer to smother what could only become a silly 
scandal. But now you know all the details as well 
as I." 

"And — she?" I asked timidly. 

He smiled triumphantly. It was triumph at hav- 
ing led me to think no longer of Morhange, or of 
his crime, the triumph of feeling that he had suc- 
ceeded in imbuing me with his own madness. 

"Yes," he said. "She! For six years I have 



298 ATLANTIDA 

learned nothing more about her. But I see her, T 
talk with her. I am thinking now how I shall re- 
enter her presence. I shall throw myself at her feet 
and say simply, 'Forgive me. I rebelled against 
your law. I did not know. But now I know; and 
you see that, like Lieutenant Ghlbertl, I have come 
back.* 

" 'Family, honor, country,' said old Le Mesge, 
'you will forget all for her.' Old Le Mesge is a 
stupid man, but he speaks from experience. He 
knows, he who has seen broken before Antlnea 
the wills of the fifty ghosts in the red marble 
hall. 

"And now, will you, in your turn, ask me 'What is 
this woman?' Do I know myself? And besides, 
what difference does it make? What does her past 
and the mystery of her origin matter to me; what 
does it matter whether she is the true descendant of 
the god of the sea and the sublime Lagides or the 
bastard of a Polish drunkard and a harlot of the 
Marbeuf quarter? 

"At the time when I was foolish enough to be 
jealous of Morhange, these questions might have 
made some difference to the ridiculous self-esteem 
that civilized people mix up with passion. But I 
have held Antinea's body in my arms. I no longer 
wish to know any other, nor if the fields are in 
blossom, nor what will become of the human 
spirit. . . . 



THE CIRCLE IS COMPLETE 299 

"I do not wish to know. Or, rather, it is because 
I have too exact a vision of that future, that I pre- 
tend to destroy myself in the only destiny that is 
worth while: a nature unfathomed and virgin, a mys- 
terious love. 

"J nutnrc unfathomed and vitv/in. I tnust explain 
myself. One winter day, in a large city all streaked 
with the soot that falls from the black chimneys of 
factories and of those horrible houses in the suburbs, 
I attended a funeral. 

"We followed the hearse in the mud. The church 
was new, damp and poor. Aside from two or three 
people, relatives stnick down by a dull sorrow, every- 
one had just one idea: to find some pretext to get 
away. Those who went as far as the cemetery were 
those who did not find an excuse. I see the gray 
walls and the cypresses, those trees of sun and shade, 
so beautiful in the country of southern France against 
the low, purple hills. I see the horrible undertaker's 
men in greasy jackets and shiny top'hats. I see . . . 
No, I'll stop; it's too horrible. 

"Near the wall, in a remote plot, a grave had 
been dug in frightful yellow pebbly clay. It was 
there that they left the dead man whose name I no 
longer remember. 

"While they were lowering the casket, I looked at 
my hands, those hands which in that strangely 
lighted country had pressed the hands of Antinea. 
A great pity for my body seized me, a great fear of 



300 . ATLANTIDA 

what threatened it in these cities of mud. *So,' I said 
to myself, *it may be that this body, this dear body, 
will come to such an end! No, no, my body, precious 
above all other treasures, I swear to you that I will 
spare you that ignominy; you shall not rot under a 
registered number in the filth of a suburban ceme- 
tery. Your brothers in love, the fifty knights 
of orichalch, await you, mute and grave, in 
the red marble hall. I shall take you back to 
them.' 

"A mysterious love. Shame to him who retails 
the secrets of his loves. The Sahara lays its im- 
passable barrier about Antinea; that is why the most 
unreasonable requirements of this woman are, in 
reality, more modest and chaste than your marriage 
will be, with its vulgar public show, the bans, the 
invitations, the announcements telling an evil-minded 
and joking people that after such and such an hour, 
on such and such a day, you will have the right to 
violate your little tupenny virgin. 

"I think that is all I have to tell you. No, there 
is still one thing more. I told you a while ago about 
the red marble hall. South of Cherchell, to the 
west of the Mazafran river, on a hill which in the 
early morning, emerges from the mists of the 
Mitidja, there is a mysterious stone pyramid. The 
natives call it, 'The Tomb of the Christian.' That 
is where the body of Antinea's ancestress, that Cleo- 
patra Selene, daughter of Mark Antony and Cleo- 



THE CIRCLE IS COiMPLETE 301 

patra, was laid to rest. Though it is placed in the 
path of invasions, this tomb has kept its treasure. 
No one has ever been able to discover the painted 
room where the beautiful body reposes in a glass 
casket. All that the ancestress has been able to do, 
the descendant will be able to surpass in grim mag- 
nificence. In the center of the red marble hall, on 
the rock whence comes the plaint of the gloomy foun- 
tain, a platform is reserved. It is there, on an ori- 
chalch throne, with the Egyptian head-dress and the 
golden serpent on her brow and the trident of Nep- 
time in her hand, that the marvelous woman I have 
told you about will be ensconced on that day when 
the hundred and twenty niches, hollowed out in a 
circle around her throne, shall each have received 
Its willing prey. 

"When I left Ahaggar, you remember that it was 
niche number 55 that was to be mine. Since then, 
I have never stopped calculating and I conclude that 
it is in number 80 or 85 that I shall repose. But any 
calculations based upon so fragile a foundation as a 
woman's whim may be erroneous. That is why I am 
getting more and more nervous. T must hurry,' I 
tell myself. 'I must hurry.' 

"I must hurry," I repeated, as if I were in a 
dream. 

He raiseci his head with an indefinable expression 
of joy. His hand trembled with happiness when he 
shook mine. 



302 ATLANTIDA 

"You will see," he repeated excitedly, "you will 
see." 

Ecstatically, he took me in his arms and held me 
there a long moment. 

An extraordinary happiness swept over both of 
us, while, alternately laughing and crying like chil- 
dren, we kept repeating: 

"We must hurry. We must hurry." 

Suddenly there sprang up a slight breeze that 
made the tufts of thatch in the roof rustle. The sky, 
pale lilac, grew paler still, and, suddenly, a great 
yellow rent tore it in the east. Dawn broke over , 
the empty desert. From within the stockade came 
dull noises, a bugle call, the rattle of chains. The 
post was waking up. 

For several seconds we stood there silent, our eyes 
fixed on the southern route by which one reaches 
Temassinin, Eguere and Ahaggar. 

A rap on the dining-room door behind us made us 
start. 

"Come in," said Andre de Saint-Avit in a voice 
which had become suddenly hard. 

The Quartermaster, Chatelain, stood before us. 

"What do you want of me at this hour?" Saint- 
Avit asked brusquely. 

The non-com stood at attention. 

"Excuse me. Captain. But a native was discov- 
ered near the post, last night, by the patrol. He 
was not trying to hide. As soon as he had been 



THE CIRCLE IS COMPLETE 303 

brought here, he asked to be led before the com- 
manding officer. It was midnight and I didn't want 
to disturb you." 

"Who is this native?" 

"A Targa, Captain." 

"ATarga? Go get him." 

Chatelain stepped aside. Escorted by one of our 
native soldiers, the man stood behind him. 

They came out on the terrace. 

The new arrival, six feet tall, was indeed a Targa. 
The light of dawn fell upon his blue-black, cotton 
robes. One could see his great dark eyes flashing. 

When he was opposite my companion, I saw a 
tremor, immediately suppressed, run through botli 
men. 

They looked at each other for an instant in si- 
lence. 

Then, bowing, and in a very calm voice, the Targa 
spoke : 

"Peace be with you, Lieutenant de Saint-Avit." 

In the same calm voice, Andre answered him: 

"Peace be with you, Cegheir-ben-Chelkh." 

THE END 



University of California 

SOUTHERN REGIONAL LIBRARY FACILITY 

405 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90024-1388 

Return this material to the library 

from which it was borrowed. 




,nHfRNnFn.ONftr.';eR»«vfAr.iuTY 



i^ 



iH"^' 



AA 000 331 514